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Vet Parasitol. 2013 Oct 18;197(1-2):95-103. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2013.04.023. Epub 2013 Apr 20.

Chronic bovine besnoitiosis: intra-organ parasite distribution, parasite loads and parasite-associated lesions in subclinical cases.

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SALUVET, Animal Health Department, Faculty of Veterinary Sciences, Complutense University of Madrid, Ciudad Universitaria s/n, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


Bovine besnoitiosis caused by Besnoitia besnoiti is a chronic and debilitating disease. The most characteristic clinical signs of chronic besnoitiosis are visible tissue cysts in the scleral conjunctiva and the vagina, thickened skin and a generally poor body condition. However, many seropositive animals remain subclinically infected, and the role that these animals may play in spreading the disease is not known. The aim of the present study was to assess the intra-organ parasite distribution, the parasite load and the parasite-associated lesions in seropositive but subclinically infected animals. These animals were seropositive at the time of several consecutive samplings, had visible tissue cysts in the past and, at time of slaughter, had detectable specific anti-Besnoitia spp. antibody levels, but they did not show evident clinical signs at culling. Thus, histopathological, immunohistochemical and molecular analyses of several samples from the respiratory tract, reproductive tract, other internal organs and skin from six cows were performed. The tissue cysts were located primarily in the upper respiratory tract, i.e., in the rhinarium and larynx/pharynx (four cows), followed by the distal genital tract (vulva/vagina) and the skin of the neck (three and two cows, respectively, out of the four cows with cysts in the respiratory tract). We were unable to detect any parasites in the two remaining cows. Cysts were associated with a significant non-purulent inflammatory infiltrate consisting predominantly of T lymphocytes and activated monocytes/macrophages in two cows. The parasite burden, estimated by quantitative real-time PCR, was very low. It is noteworthy that the only animal that showed a recent increase in the antibody titre had the highest parasite burden and the most conspicuous inflammatory reaction against the cysts. In conclusion, although these cows no longer displayed any visible signs of besnoitiosis, they remained infected. Therefore, cows without visible signs of disease may still be able to transmit the parasite.


Besnoitia besnoiti; Bovine besnoitiosis; Histopathology; IHQ; Quantitative real-time PCR; Subclinical infection

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