Original Research

Prevalence of Theileria and Babesia species in Tunisian sheep

Mohamed R. Rjeibi, Mohamed A. Darghouth, Mohamed Gharbi
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 83, No 1 | a1040 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v83i1.1040 | © 2016 Mohamed R. Rjeibi, Mohamed A. Darghouth, Mohamed Gharbi | This work is licensed under CC Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0
Submitted: 12 August 2015 | Published: 24 May 2016

About the author(s)

Mohamed R. Rjeibi, Institution of Agricultural Research and Higher Education, Laboratory of Parasitology, National School of Veterinary Medicine, Manouba University, Tunisia; Department of Biology, Carthage University, Tunisia
Mohamed A. Darghouth, Institution of Agricultural Research and Higher Education, Laboratory of Parasitology, National School of Veterinary Medicine, Manouba University, Tunisia
Mohamed Gharbi, Institution of Agricultural Research and Higher Education, Laboratory of Parasitology, National School of Veterinary Medicine, Manouba University, Tunisia


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Abstract

In this study, the prevalence of Theileria and Babesia species in sheep was assessed with Giemsastained blood smear examination and polymerase chain reaction to identify the different piroplasms in 270 sheep from three Tunisian bioclimatic zones (north, centre, and south). The overall infection prevalence by Babesia spp. and Theileria spp. in Giemsa-stained blood smears was 2.9% (8/270) and 4.8% (13/270) respectively. The molecular results showed that sheep were more often infected by Theileria ovis than Babesia ovis with an overall prevalence of 16.3% (44/270) and 7.8% (21/270) respectively (p = 0.01). The molecular prevalence by Babesia ovis was significantly higher in females than in males (p < 0.05). According to localities B. ovis was found exclusively in sheep from the centre of Tunisia (Kairouan) whereas Theileria ovis was found in all regions. Infections with T. ovis and B. ovis were confirmed by sequencing. The sequence of T. ovis in this study (accession numbers KM924442) falls into the same clade as T. ovis deposited in GenBank. The T. ovis amplicons (KM924442) showed 99%–100% identities with GenBank sequences. Moreover, comparison of the partial sequences of 18S rRNA gene of B. ovis described in this study (KP670199) revealed 99.4% similarity with B. ovis recently reported in northern Tunisia from sheep and goats. Three nucleotides were different at positions 73 (A/T), 417 (A/T), and 420 (G/T). It also had 99% identity with B. ovis from Spain, Turkey and Iraq. The results suggest a high T. ovis prevalence in Tunisia with a decreasing north-south gradient. This could be correlated to the vector tick distribution.


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