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Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2013 Apr;4(3):242-5. doi: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2012.11.008. Epub 2013 Jan 19.

Diagnosis of Theileria equi infections in horses in the Azores using cELISA and nested PCR.

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Biotechnology Centre of Azores, Associated Laboratory Institute for Biotechnology and Bioengineering, University of Azores, Rua Capitão João D'Ávila, 9700-042 Angra do Heroísmo, Portugal.


Equine piroplasmosis is a tick-borne disease of equids that is often caused by the parasite Theileria equi. We applied competitive ELISA (cELISA) and nested PCR diagnostic methods to detect this parasite in horses by screening 162 samples from mainland Portugal where the parasite is endemic, and 143 from the Azores representing both native and imported horse populations. We found that 2.8% of the Azorean samples tested positive exclusively by cELISA, 1.4% tested positive only by nested PCR, and 9.1% tested positive using both tests. Samples from the native Terceira Pony population were negative for both tests. The parasite was more prevalent in samples from mainland Portugal when both test methods were considered (9.3% positive exclusively by cELISA, 1.9% positive exclusively by nested PCR, and 16.7% positive for both tests). To our knowledge, this is the first time that molecular techniques have been used to detect T. equi in the Azores and the first report of this parasite in the archipelago. Based on this study, it is clear that the import of horses into the Azores and the movement of horses between the islands must be controlled to reduce the risk of new infections, contributing to the protection of native horse populations such as the Terceira Pony population.

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