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COMPARATIVE INFECTIVITY OF BABESIA DIVERGENS AND A ZOONOTIC BABESIA DIVERGENS–LIKE PARASITE IN CATTLE

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  • 1 Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas; Division of Infectious Diseases, Department of Biomedical Sciences, Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, Tufts University, North Grafton, Massachusetts; Department of Clinical Medicine and Surgery, College of Veterinary Medicine, Washington State University, Pullman, Washington; Animal Disease Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, Pullman, Washington

Babesia divergens–like parasites identified in human babesiosis cases in Missouri and Kentucky and in eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) on Nantucket Island, Massachusetts, share identical small subunit ribosomal RNA gene sequences. This sequence is 99.8% identical to that of Babesia divergens, suggesting that the U.S. parasite may be B. divergens, a causative agent of human and bovine babesiosis in Europe. Holstein-Friesian calves were inoculated with cultured Nantucket Island Babesia sp. (NR831) and B. divergens parasites and monitored by clinical signs, Giemsa-stained blood films, PCR, and culture. The NR831 recipients did not exhibit clinical signs of infection and remained negative for all assays. The B. divergens recipients developed clinical infections and became positive by all assays. NR831 recipients were fully susceptible upon challenge inoculation with B. divergens. This study confirms that the Nantucket Island Babesia sp. is not conspecific with B. divergens based on host specificity for cattle.

Author Notes

Reprint requests: Will L. Goff, Animal Disease Research Unit, Agricultural Research Service, United States Department of Agriculture, 3003 ADBF, Washington State University, Pullman, WA 99164-6630, Telephone: 509-335-6003, E-mail: wgoff@vetmed.wsu.edu.
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