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J Parasitol. 2009 Jun;95(3):536-42. doi: 10.1645/GE-1648.1.

Epizootiology of Babesia bovis and Babesia bigemina in free-ranging white-tailed deer in northeastern Mexico.

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  • 1INIFAP-CIRNE-Campo Experimental Aldama, Tamaulipas, Km. 18.5 Carretera Est. Manuel-Aldama, Aldama, Tamaulipas, C.P. 89679, México.


Species of Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) ticks are the vectors of babesiosis (cattle fever tick), which are distributed worldwide. White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus) are important secondary hosts for the cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus (B.) annulatus and Rhipicephalus (B.) microplus. White-tailed deer are capable of sustaining Boophilus spp. tick populations in the presence or absence of cattle. The objectives of this study were to determine the frequency of Babesia bovis and Babesia bigemina and the prevalence of antibodies to them and identify possible risk factors for bovine babesiosis in white-tailed deer in 3 northeastern states of México. Whole blood and serum samples (n = 457) were collected from white-tailed deer in the states of Coahuila, Nuevo Leon, and Tamaulipas during the spring of 2004. Samples were tested for B. bovis and B. bigemina by nested polymerase chain reaction (n-PCR) (the primers for B. bovis identified the gene Rap-1 and B. bigemina were specific primers) and by an indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT). A questionnaire was given to each ranch to obtain information about management practices. Logistic regression methods were used to test the association between management factors and the dependent variable of positive n-PCR or IFAT. Nineteen (4.2%) samples were positive to B. bigemina and 6 (1.7%) were positive to B. bovis by n-PCR. Serological testing showed 59.9% (n = 274) of deer sampled were positive to B. bovis and 5.4% (n = 25) were positive to B. bigemina antibodies. The logistic model varied with different dependent variables. With positive n-PCR and B. bigemina as the dependent variable, 3 factors were associated: habitat (presence of brush and exotic grasses; odds ratio (OR), 3.3; 95% confidence interval (CI), 1.3-8.5), grazing system (continuous grazing OR 4.0; CI, 1.3-12.2), and tick treatment frequency (3-4 mo; OR 7.0, CI 1.4-34.3; 5-6 mo; OR, 11.0; CI, 1.9-62.7; > 6 mo; OR, 4.6; CI, 0.9-23.3). These findings suggest that white-tailed deer may act as a reservoir for the 2 bovine Babesia spp. and that white-tailed deer may be important in the epidemiology of babesiosis. However, evidence is not available to support whether white-tailed deer are, or are not, likely to be a host that could complete the transmission cycle of Babesia spp. These results suggest that additional research is needed to demonstrate the importance of white-tailed deer as a Babesia spp. infection source for ticks.

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