In vitro cultivation of Babesia duncani (Apicomplexa: Babesiidae), a zoonotic hemoprotozoan, using infected blood from Syrian hamsters (Mesocricetus auratus)

  • Kimberly A. McCormackEmail author
  • Amer Alhaboubi
  • Dana A. Pollard
  • Lee Fuller
  • Patricia J. Holman
Protozoology - Original Paper


Human babesiosis, a tick-borne disease similar to malaria, is most often caused by the hemoprotozoans Babesia divergens in Europe, and Babesia microti and Babesia duncani in North America. Babesia microti is the best documented and causes more cases of human babesiosis annually than all other agents combined. Although the agents that cause human babesiosis are considered high-risk pathogens in transfusion medicine, federally licensed diagnostics are lacking for B. duncani in both the USA and Canada. Thus, there has been a need to develop and validate diagnostics specifically for this pathogen. In this study, B. duncani (WA1 isolate) was cultivated in vitro from Syrian hamster (Mesocricetus auratus) infected blood. We hypothesized HL-1 media with supplements would result in B. duncani propagating at higher levels in culture than supplemented M199 similar to the medium the parasite was originally cultivated with in 1994. We were unable to recreate Thomford’s cultivation results with the M199 medium but supplemented HL-1 medium was able to successfully establish continuous culture. We further hypothesized that RBC from species other than hamsters would support B. duncani in vitro. However, rat, mouse, horse, and cow RBC did not support continuous culture of the parasite. Culture stocks of B. duncani were deposited at BEI Resources and are now commercially available to the scientific community to further research. The cultured parasite developed in this study was instrumental in the adaptation of B. duncani continuous culture to human RBC.


Babesia duncani Human babesiosis Transfusion Tick-borne disease Percentage of parasitized erythrocytes (PPE) 


Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed. All procedures performed in studies involving animals were in accordance with the ethical standards of Texas A&M University at which the studies were conducted.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Comparative Medicine Program, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  2. 2.Department of Comparative MedicineUniversity of Oklahoma Health Sciences CenterOklahoma CityUSA
  3. 3.Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical SciencesTexas A&M UniversityCollege StationUSA
  4. 4.Department of Parasitology, College of Veterinary MedicineUniversity of BaghdadBaghdadIraq
  5. 5.Health Resources and Services AdministrationU.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesBaton RougeUSA
  6. 6.Fuller LaboratoriesFullertonUSA

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