Measuring inflammatory markers is critical to evaluating both recent infection status and overall human and animal health; however, there are relatively few techniques that do not require specialized equipment or personnel for detecting inflammation among wildlife. Such techniques are useful in that they help determine individual and population-level inflammatory status without the infrastructure and reagents that many more-specific assays require. One such technique, known as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR), is a measure of how quickly erythrocytes (red blood cells) settle in serum, with a faster rate indicating a general, underlying inflammatory process is occurring. The technique is simple, inexpensive, and can be performed in the field without specialized equipment. We took advantage of a population of African buffalo (Syncerus caffer), well studied from June 2014 to May 2017, to understand the utility of ESR in an important wildlife species. When ESR was compared with other markers of immunity in African buffalo, it correlated to known measures of inflammation. We found that a faster ESR was significantly positively correlated with increased total globulin levels and significantly negatively correlated with increased red blood cell count and albumin levels. We then evaluated if ESR correlated to the incidence of five respiratory pathogens and infection with two tick-borne pathogens in African buffalo. Our results suggest that elevated ESR is associated with the incidence of bovine viral diarrhea virus infection, parainfluenza virus, and Mannheimia haemolytica infections as well as concurrent Anaplasma marginale and Anaplasma centrale coinfection. These findings suggest that ESR is a useful field test as an inflammatory marker in individuals and herds, helping us better monitor overall health status in wild populations.
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Vol. 58 • No. 2