Occurrence of tick-borne haemoparasites in cattle in the Mungwi District, Northern Province, Zambia

Stephen Tembo, Nicola E Collins, Kgomotso P Sibeko-Matjila, Milana Troskie, Ilse Vorster, Charles Byaruhanga, Marinda C Oosthuizen
Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases 2018, 9 (3): 707-717
Little is known about the occurrence of haemoparasites in cattle in communal grazing areas of Mungwi District of Northern Province, Zambia. Clinical signs and post mortem lesions are pathognomonic of mixed tick-borne infections especially babesiosis, anaplasmosis and East Coast fever. The main objective of this study was to screen selected communal herds of cattle for tick-borne haemoparasites, and identify the tick vectors associated with the high cattle mortalities due to suspected tick-borne diseases in the local breeds of cattle grazing along the banks of the Chambeshi River in Mungwi District, Northern Province, Zambia. A total of 299 cattle blood samples were collected from July to September 2010 from Kapamba (n = 50), Chifulo (n = 102), Chisanga (n = 38), Kowa (n = 95) and Mungwi central (n = 14) in the Mungwi District. A total of 5288 ticks were also collected from the sampled cattle from April to July 2011. DNA was extracted from the cattle blood and the hypervariable region of the parasite small subunit rRNA gene was amplified and subjected to the reverse line blot (RLB) hybridization assay. The results of the RLB assay revealed the presence of tick-borne haemoparasites in 259 (86.6%) cattle blood samples occurring either as single (11.0%) or mixed (75.6%) infections. The most prevalent species present were the benign Theileria mutans (54.5%) and T. velifera (51.5%). Anaplasma marginale (25.7%), Babesia bovis (7.7%) and B. bigemina (3.3%) DNA were also detected in the samples. Only one sample (from Kapamba) tested positive for the presence of T. parva. This was an unexpected finding; also because the tick vector, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus, was identified on animals from Kowa (14.0%), Chisanga (8.5%), Chifulo (6.0%) and Kapamba (1.4%). One sample (from Kapamba) tested positive for the presence of Ehrlichia ruminantium even though Amblyomma variegatum ticks were identified from 52.9% of the sampled animals from all study areas. There was significant positive association between T. mutans and T. velifera (p < 0.001) infections, and between A. marginale and B. bovis (p = 0.005). The presence of R. microplus tick vectors on cattle was significantly associated with B. bovis (odds ratio, OR = 28.4, p < 0.001) and A. marginale (OR = 42.0, p < 0.001) infections, while A. variegatum presence was significantly associated with T. mutans (OR = 213.0, p < 0.001) and T. velifera (OR = 459.0, p < 0.001) infections. Rhipicephalus decoloratus was significantly associated with B. bigemina (OR = 21.6, p = 0.004) and A. marginale (OR = 28.5, p < 0.001). Multivariable analysis showed a significant association between location and tick-borne pathogen status for A. marginale (p < 0.001), T. mutans (p = 0.004), T. velifera (p = 0.003) and T. taurotragi (p = 0.005). The results of our study suggest that the cause of cattle mortalities in Mungwi during the winter outbreaks is mainly due to A. marginale, B. bovis and B. bigemina infections. This was confirmed by the clinical manifestation of the disease in the affected cattle and the tick species identified on the animals. The relatively low prevalence of T. parva, B. bigemina, B. bovis and E. ruminantium could indicate the existence of endemic instability with a pool of susceptible cattle and the occurrence of disease outbreaks.

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