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Experimental transmission of Babesia microti by Rhipicephalus haemaphysaloides

Li, Lan-Hua, Zhu, Dan, Zhang, Chen-Chen, Zhang, Yi, Zhou, Xiao-Nong
Parasites & vectors 2016 v.9 no.1 pp. 231
Babesia microti, Rhipicephalus, adults, babesiosis, blood, blood sampling, human diseases, humans, larvae, mice, molting, nymphs, polymerase chain reaction, public health, severe combined immunodeficiency, ticks, transovarial transmission, China
BACKGROUND: Human babesiosis is considered an emerging threat in China. Dozens of human infections with Babesia microti have been reported recently, especially in southern China. However, the transmission vectors of this parasite in these areas are not well understood. Rhipicephalus haemaphysaloides, which is one of the dominant tick species in southern China, is a major vector of bovine babesiosis in China. However, whether this tick has the potential to transmit B. microti has not been tested. The present study experimentally investigated the transmission competence of B. microti through R. haemaphysaloides ticks. METHODS: Larvae and nymphs of R. haemaphysaloides ticks were fed on laboratory mice infected by B. microti. The infection was detected by PCR at 4 weeks post-molting. BALB/c and NOD/SCID mice were infested by nymphs molting from larvae that ingested the blood of infective mice, and blood samples were then analyzed by PCR. RESULTS: Experimental transstadial transmission of R. haemaphysaloides for B. microti was proved in both the larvae to nymph and the nymph to adult transstadial routes. The positive rate of B. microti was 43.8 % in nymphs developed from larvae consumed infected mice and 96.7 % in adults developed from nymphs exposed to positive mice. Among the mice infested by infective nymphs, B. microti was detected in 16.7 % (2/12) of the BALB/c mice and in all of the NOD/SCID (6/6). However, the parasite was not observed to persist beyond more than one molt, and transovarial transmission did not occur. CONCLUSIONS: This is the first study to demonstrate that B. microti can be transmitted artificially by R. haemaphysaloides. This tick species might be a potential vector of human babesiosis in southern China, which represents a public health concern.