Molecular studies on Babesia, Theileria and Hepatozoon in southern Europe. Part I. Epizootiological aspects

A Criado-Fornelio, A Martinez-Marcos, A Buling-Saraña, J C Barba-Carretero
Veterinary Parasitology 2003 May 1, 113 (3): 189-201
Molecular epizootiology of piroplasmids (Babesia spp., Theileria spp.) and Hepatozoon canis was studied in mammals from southern Europe (mainly from Spain, but also from Portugal and France). Partial amplification and sequencing of the 18s rRNA gene was used for molecular diagnosis. In some particular cases (B. ovis and B. bovis) the complete 18s rRNA gene was sequenced. Blood samples were taken from domestic animals showing clinical symptoms: 10 dogs, 10 horses, 10 cows, 9 sheep and 1 goat. In addition, DNA samples were isolated from blood of 12 healthy dogs and from spleen of 10 wild red foxes (Vulpes vulpes). The results of the survey were the following: Piroplasmid infections: Approximately from 50 to 70% of wild or domestic mammals (symptomatic) were infected. Piroplasmids detected in ruminants were:COW: B. bovis, T. annulata and Theileria sp. (type C). Sheep and goat: B. ovis. Piroplasmids present in canids were: Babesia canis vogeli, Babesia canis canis, Theileria annae and B. equi. The only piroplasmid found in asymptomatic dogs was B. equi. Piroplasmids found in horse were: B. equi and B. canis canis.H. canis infections in canids: H. canis was absent of domestic dog samples, whereas all foxes studied were infected by this protozoa. Genetic analysis showed that most of piroplasmid and Hepatozoon isolates from southern Europe matched unambigously with previously described species, as demonstrated by the high level sequence identity between them, usually between 99 and 100%. Minor differences, usually detected in hypervariable regions of 18s rRNA gene are probably due to strain variations or rare genetic polymorphisms. A possible exception was B. bovis, which shows a relatively lower degree of homology (94%) with regard to other B. bovis isolates from several countries. The same is true for B. ovis, that showed a 94% identity with regard to Babesia sp. from South African cow and a 92% with rapport to B. bovis from Portugal.

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