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Guidelines for the Detection of Babesia and Theileria Parasites

Laetitia Lempereur1Relja Beck2Isabel Fonseca3Cátia Marques3Ana Duarte3Marcos Santos3Sara Zúquete3Jacinto Gomes4Gernot Walder5Ana Domingos6Sandra Antunes6Gad Baneth7Cornelia Silaghi8Patricia Holman9Annetta Zintl10

Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis 2017 Jan;17(1):51-65. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2016.1955.


The genera Babesia and Theileria (phylum Apicomplexa, order Piroplasmida) are mainly transmitted by Ixodid ticks in which the sexual part of their life cycle followed by sporogony takes place. They include protozoan parasites that infect erythrocytes of a variety of vertebrate hosts, including domestic and wild animals, with some Babesia spp. also infecting humans. Babesia sporozoites transmitted in the tick’s saliva during the bloodmeal directly infect erythrocytes, where they asexually multiply to produce pear-shaped merozoites in the process of merogony; whereas a pre-erythrocytic schizogonic life stage in leukocytes is found in Theileria and precedes merogony in the erythrocytes. The wide spectrum of Babesia and Theileria species and their dissimilar characteristics with relation to disease severity, transmission, epidemiology, and drug susceptibility stress the importance of accurate detection of babesiosis and theileriosis and their causative agents. These guidelines review the main methods currently used for the detection of Babesia and Theileria spp. for diagnostic purposes as well as epidemiological studies involving their vertebrate hosts and arthropod vectors. Serological methods were not included once they did not indicate current infection but rather exposure.

Keywords: Babesia; PCR; Theileria; diagnosis; in vitro culture.


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