Molecular characterization of tick-borne bacteria and protozoans in yaks (Bos grunniens), Tibetan sheep (Ovis aries) and Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus) in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau Area, China

Jixu Li, Yingna Jian, Lijun Jia, Eloiza May Galon, Byamukama Benedicto, Geping Wang, Qigang Cai, Mingming Liu, Yongchang Li, Shengwei Ji, Maria Agnes Tumwebaze, Liqing Ma, Xuenan Xuan
Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases 2020, 11 (5): 101466
Due to the specific plateau climate, a variety of unique animals live in the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau Area (QTPA) including yaks (Bos grunniens), Tibetan sheep (Ovis aries) and Bactrian camels (Camelus bactrianus). However, information on tick-borne diseases (TBDs) in the QTPA and on the molecular characteristics of tick-borne pathogens (TBPs) in the area is limited. Therefore, the aim of this study was to investigate Anaplasma spp., Babesia spp., Theileria spp., Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato and Rickettsia spp. infecting yaks, Tibetan sheep and camels in this area. A total of 276 animals were screened. Overall, 84.5% (164/194) of yaks, 58% (23/40) of Tibetan sheep, and 38% (16/42) of camels tested positive for at least one pathogen. Theileria spp., Anaplasma ovis and spotted fever group (SFG) Rickettsia spp. were detected as TBPs in the current study with overall infection rates of 10.9% (30/276), 8.3% (23/276) and 62.9% (171/276), respectively. Further study revealed that 1.5% (3/194) of the yaks were infected with Theileria sp. OT3, 1.5% (3/194) with T. luwenshuni, 6.2% (12/194) with T. uilenbergi, 1.1% (2/194) with T. ovis and 82% (159/194) with SFG Rickettsia spp. It was also shown that 58% (23/40) of the Tibetan sheep were infected with A. ovis and 15% (6/40) with T. ovis. Among the camels, 10% (4/42) were infected with T. equi, while 29% (12/42) were positive for Rickettsia spp. Sequence analysis revealed that the Rickettsia spp. infecting yaks and camels were Rickettsia raoultii and Rickettsia slovaca. To the best of our knowledge, this study reports the first detection and characterization of these pathogens in yaks, Tibetan sheep and camels in the country, except for T. luwenshuni infections in yaks.

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