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Vet Parasitol. 2010 Feb 10;167(2-4):244-54. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2009.09.026. Epub 2009 Sep 20.

Four p67 alleles identified in South African Theileria parva field samples.

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Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, University of Pretoria, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa.


Previous studies characterizing the Theileria parva p67 gene in East Africa revealed two alleles. Cattle-derived isolates associated with East Coast fever (ECF) have a 129bp deletion in the central region of the p67 gene (allele 1), compared to buffalo-derived isolates with no deletion (allele 2). In South Africa, Corridor disease outbreaks occur if there is contact between infected buffalo and susceptible cattle in the presence of vector ticks. Although ECF was introduced into South Africa in the early 20th century, it has been eradicated and it is thought that there has been no cattle to cattle transmission of T. parva since. The variable region of the p67 gene was amplified and the gene sequences analyzed to characterize South African T. parva parasites that occur in buffalo, in cattle from farms where Corridor disease outbreaks were diagnosed and in experimentally infected cattle. Four p67 alleles were identified, including alleles 1 and 2 previously detected in East African cattle and buffalo, respectively, as well as two novel alleles, one with a different 174bp deletion (allele 3), the other with a similar sequence to allele 3 but with no deletion (allele 4). Sequence variants of allele 1 were obtained from field samples originating from both cattle and buffalo. Allele 1 was also obtained from a bovine that tested T. parva positive from a farm near Ladysmith in the KwaZulu-Natal Province. East Coast fever was not diagnosed on this farm, but the p67 sequence was identical to that of T. parva Muguga, an isolate that causes ECF in Kenya. Variants of allele 2 were obtained from all T. parva samples from both buffalo and cattle, except Lad 10 and Zam 5. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that alleles 3 and 4 are monophyletic and diverged early from the other alleles. These novel alleles were not identified from South African field samples collected from cattle; however allele 3, with a p67 sequence identical to those obtained in South African field samples from buffalo, was obtained from a Zambian field isolate of a naturally infected bovine diagnosed with ECF. The p67 genetic profiles appear to be more complex than previously thought and cannot be used to distinguish between cattle- and buffalo-derived T. parva isolates in South Africa. The significance of the different p67 alleles, particularly the novel variants, in the epidemiology of theileriosis in South Africa still needs to be determined.

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