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Sequence variation identified in the 18S rRNA gene of Theileria mutans and Theileria velifera from the African buffalo (Syncerus caffer)

Chaisi, Mamohale E., Collins, Nicola E., Potgieter, Fred T., Oosthuizen, Marinda C.
Veterinary parasitology 2013 v.191 no.1-2 pp. 132-137
Babesia, Syncerus caffer, Theileria mutans, Theileria parva, buffaloes, cattle, diagnostic techniques, disease reservoirs, gene targeting, genes, hybridization, mixed infection, nucleotide sequences, polymerase chain reaction, ribosomal RNA, South Africa
The African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is a natural reservoir host for both pathogenic and non-pathogenic Theileria species. These often occur naturally as mixed infections in buffalo. Although the benign and mildly pathogenic forms do not have any significant economic importance, their presence could complicate the interpretation of diagnostic test results aimed at the specific diagnosis of the pathogenic Theileria parva in cattle and buffalo in South Africa. The 18S rRNA gene has been used as the target in a quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR) assay for the detection of T. parva infections. However, the extent of sequence variation within this gene in the non-pathogenic Theileria spp. of the Africa buffalo is not well known. The aim of this study was, therefore, to characterise the full-length 18S rRNA genes of Theileria mutans, Theileria sp. (strain MSD) and T. velifera and to determine the possible influence of any sequence variation on the specific detection of T. parva using the 18S rRNA qPCR. The reverse line blot (RLB) hybridization assay was used to select samples which either tested positive for several different Theileria spp., or which hybridised only with the Babesia/Theileria genus-specific probe and not with any of the Babesia or Theileria species-specific probes. The full-length 18S rRNA genes from 14 samples, originating from 13 buffalo and one bovine from different localities in South Africa, were amplified, cloned and the resulting recombinants sequenced. Variations in the 18S rRNA gene sequences were identified in T. mutans, Theileria sp. (strain MSD) and T. velifera, with the greatest diversity observed amongst the T. mutans variants. This variation possibly explained why the RLB hybridization assay failed to detect T. mutans and T. velifera in some of the analysed samples.