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Parasit Vectors. 2018 Jul 18;11(1):427. doi: 10.1186/s13071-018-2993-3.

First evidence of Besnoitia bennetti infection (Protozoa: Apicomplexa) in donkeys (Equus asinus) in Belgium.

Author information

Laboratoire de Parasitologie et Maladies Parasitaires, ENVT, Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France.
IHAP, INRA, ENVT, Université de Toulouse, Toulouse, France.
, Waterloo, Belgium.
University of Ghent, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Merelbeke, Belgium.
University of Liège, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Liège, Belgium.
University of Liège, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Liège, Belgium.



Besnoitiosis is caused by different species of intracellular protozoan parasites belonging to the family Sarcocystidae and affecting multiple host species worldwide. Including B. besnoiti, ten species are described infecting animals. Among ungulates, Besnoitia bennetti infects horses, donkeys and zebras and was described in Africa and in the USA where donkey besnoitiosis is considered as an emerging disease.


A two-year-old male donkey was purchased in May 2016 in poor body condition (cachexia, alopetic areas and pruritus mainly on neck and head) by the present owner in Le Roeulx (Belgium) from a milk producing donkey farm in Frasnes-lez-Buissenal (Belgium). Shortly after its purchase and shearing, the donkey presented with crusts, hyperkeratosis (both flanks and neck) anorexia and cachexia. A treatment with phoxim was given with no improvement. A cutaneous biopsy of hyperkeratotic skin was performed in July. It showed a perivascular eosinophilic infiltrate with a large thick walled cyst located in the dermis containing numerous bradyzoites. This was highly suggestive of besnoitiosis. Several skin biopsy samples were obtained for qPCR analysis and confirmed the presence of Besnoitia spp. DNA. Further laboratory diagnosis tests were performed (western blot and rDNA sequencing) confirming Besnoitia bennetti aetiology for the male. For the female, the punch-biopsy, haematology and qPCR were negatives but the western blot showed the presence of antibodies directed to Besnoitia spp. Further clinical examination performed in August highlighted scleral pinhead sized cysts (pearl) in the right eye and between nares. Another ten-year-old female donkey purchased in France and sharing the same accommodation showed a good clinical condition, but a thorough clinical examination showed the presence of numerous cysts on the inner face of upper labial mucosa. A daily treatment based on sulfamethaxzole and trimethoprim (Emdotrim 60% Mix®, 30 mg/kg) was given orally and some improvement was noticed.


This is the first evidence of Besnoitia bennetti infection (Protozoa: Apicomplexa) in donkeys (Equus asinus) in Belgium.


Besnoitia bennetti; Besnoitiosis; Donkey; Europe; Scleral and labial cysts

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