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Stray Mexico origin cattle captured crossing into Southern Texas carry Babesia bovis and other tick-borne pathogens

Glen A. Scoles, Kimberly H. Lohmeyer, Massaro W. Ueti, Denise Bonilla, Kevin K. Lahmers, Julie Piccione, Artem S. Rogovskyy
Ticks and tick-borne diseases 2021 v.12 no.5 pp. 101708
Anaplasma marginale, Babesia bigemina, Babesia bovis, Borrelia theileri, Rhipicephalus microplus, Theileria orientalis, beef industry, blood, cattle, cattle diseases, pathogens, plant health, quarantine, risk, Mexico, Texas
Cattle fever ticks, Rhipicephalus microplus and R. annulatus have been eradicated from the United States and inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP) monitor the quarantine zone along the Texas border to prevent the introduction of livestock carrying cattle fever ticks from Mexico. Stray livestock apprehended by CFTEP in the zone are checked for ticks and tested for infectious disease-causing pathogens but are not evaluated for evidence of infection with tick-borne pathogens. We tested blood samples collected from stray cattle by CFTEP inspectors for evidence of infection with tick-borne pathogens. As a comparison group representing U.S. resident cattle, we tested blood samples that had been sent to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) for unrelated testing. Both sets of blood samples were evaluated using the same specific and broad-spectrum PCR assays. For the border cattle the overall prevalence of infection with one or more tick-borne pathogen was 58.5 % (79/135) with many co-infections, including 30 cattle positive for Babesia bovis and/or Babesia bigemina (22.2 %) and 77 cattle positive for Anaplasma marginale (57 %), three of these animals were also positive for Borrelia theileri. No resident cattle represented by the TVMDL samples were infected with either of the Babesia spp., or with Borrelia theileri, but three were positive for Theileria orientalis and 7.3 % (7/96) were positive for A. marginale. These data show that cattle originating in Mexico have a higher prevalence of infection with tick-borne pathogens relative to resident U.S. cattle and specifically, a proportion are infected with bovine Babesia, which is absent from U.S. cattle populations. Consequently, these stray cattle may be a reservoir of tick-borne pathogens and if populations of Boophilus ticks become reestablished in areas where they had previously been eradicated, could pose a significant risk to the U.S. Cattle industry.