Longitudinal field study on bovine Babesia spp. and Anaplasma phagocytophilum infections during a grazing season in Belgium
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Anaplasmosis and babesiosis are major tick-borne diseases with a high economic impact but are also a public health concern. Blood samples collected in the spring, summer, and autumn of 2010 from 65 cows in seven different farms in Belgium were monitored with an indirect immunofluorescence antibody test to assess seroprevalence against these pathogens. Seroprevalences to Babesia spp. were measured as 10.7%, 20%, and 12.3% in spring, summer, and autumn, respectively, whereas seroprevalences to Anaplasma phagocytophilum were 30.8%, 77%, and 56.9%, respectively. A total of 805 Ixodes ricinus ticks were collected at the same time from both cattle (feeding ticks) and grazed pastures (questing ticks). The infection level of ticks, assessed by PCR assay, for Babesia spp. DNA was 14.6% and 7.9% in feeding and questing ticks, respectively, whereas 21.7% and 3% of feeding and questing ticks were found be positive for A. phagocytophilum cDNA. Fifty-five PCR-positive samples were identified by sequencing as Babesia sp. EU1, of which five from feeding ticks were positive for both A. phagocytophilum and Babesia sp. EU1. The high density of wild cervids in the study area could explain these observations, as deer are considered to be the main hosts for adults of I. ricinus. However, the absence of Babesia divergens both in feeding and questing ticks is surprising, as the study area is known to be endemic for cattle babesiosis. Increasing cervid populations and comorbidity could play an import role in the epidemiology of these tick-borne diseases.
KeywordsBabesia Polymerase Chain Reaction Test Babesiosis Wild Ruminant Anaplasma Phagocytophilum
Laetitia Lempereur is an early-stage researcher supported by the POSTICK ITN (postgraduate training network for capacity building to control ticks and tick-borne diseases) within the FP7–PEOPLE—ITN program (EU Grant No. 238511). The authors are very grateful to the veterinarians and farmers involved in this survey for the sample collections. The authors would like to thank Dr. Christian Quinet and Ir Cédric Mullender for their scientific support and their supervision and Françoise Maréchal for her technical support.
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