JOURNAL ARTICLE

Babesia spp. in European wild ruminant species: parasite diversity and risk factors for infection

Adam O Michel, Alexander Mathis, Marie-Pierre Ryser-Degiorgis
Veterinary Research 2014, 45: 65
24925474
Babesia are tick-borne parasites that are increasingly considered as a threat to animal and public health. We aimed to assess the role of European free-ranging wild ruminants as maintenance mammalian hosts for Babesia species and to determine risk factors for infection. EDTA blood was collected from 222 roe deer (Capreolus c. capreolus), 231 red deer (Cervus e. elaphus), 267 Alpine chamois (Rupicapra r. rupicapra) and 264 Alpine ibex (Capra i. ibex) from all over Switzerland and analysed by PCR with pan-Babesia primers targeting the 18S rRNA gene, primers specific for B. capreoli and Babesia sp. EU1, and by sequencing. Babesia species, including B. divergens, B. capreoli, Babesia sp. EU1, Babesia sp. CH1 and B. motasi, were detected in 10.7% of all samples. Five individuals were co-infected with two Babesia species. Infection with specific Babesia varied widely between host species. Cervidae were significantly more infected with Babesia spp. than Caprinae. Babesia capreoli and Babesia sp. EU1 were mostly found in roe deer (prevalences 17.1% and 7.7%, respectively) and B. divergens and Babesia sp. CH1 only in red deer. Factors significantly associated with infection were low altitude and young age. Identification of Babesia sp. CH1 in red deer, co-infection with multiple Babesia species and infection of wild Caprinae with B. motasi and Babesia sp. EU1 are novel findings. We propose wild Caprinae as spillover or accidental hosts for Babesia species but wild Cervidae as mammalian reservoir hosts for B. capreoli, possibly Babesia sp. EU1 and Babesia sp. CH1, whereas their role regarding B. divergens is more elusive.

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