JOURNAL ARTICLE

A longitudinal study of sero-conversion to tick-borne pathogens in smallholder dairy youngstock in Tanzania

E S Swai, N P French, G Beauchamp, J L Fitzpatrick, M J Bryant, D Kambarage, N H Ogden
Veterinary Parasitology 2005 July 15, 131 (1): 129-37
15936149
A longitudinal study of sero-conversion of youngstock to the tick-borne pathogens Theileria parva, T. mutans, Anaplasma marginale, Babesia bigemina and B. bovis was conducted over two years on smallholder dairy farms in Tanga region, Tanzania. There was evidence of maternal antibodies to all tick-borne pathogens in animals less than 18 weeks of age. Seroprevalence increased as expected with age in animals older than this but seroprevalence profiles underestimated the force of infection due to waning antibody levels between samplings. By the end of the 2-year study, less than 50% of study animals had seroconverted to each of the tick-borne pathogens investigated, consistent with the low levels of tick attachment observed on the study animals. Some associations between seroconversion to tick-borne pathogens, and counts of their known tick vectors on the animals, were identified as expected. However, some were not, suggesting that counts of some tick species may act as an index of rates of attachment of other vector species. Variation in acaricide treatment frequencies was not associated with variations in tick-borne pathogen seroprevalence suggesting that acaricides may be used more frequently than necessary on many farms. Most animals were zero-grazed, a management system associated with a significantly lower likelihood that animals seroconverted to any tick-borne pathogen except A. marginale. Seroprevalence varied locally with farm location (particularly for Babesia spp.) but was not well predicted by indices of ecological conditions. Our findings suggest that attempts to achieve a state of 'endemic stability' for tick-borne pathogens may be unreasonable on the smallholder dairy farms studied but reductions in the frequency of use of acaricides may be possible following prospective studies of effects on mortality and morbidity due to tick-borne pathogens.

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