Molecular identification of Ehrlichia, Anaplasma, Babesia and Theileria in African elephants and their ticks

Autoři: Edward King’ori aff001;  Vincent Obanda aff002;  Patrick I. Chiyo aff003;  Ramon C. Soriguer aff004;  Patrocinio Morrondo aff001;  Samer Angelone aff004
Působiště autorů: Department of Animal Science, University of Santiago de Compostela, Santiago, Spain aff001;  Veterinary Department, Kenya Wildlife Service, Nairobi, Kenya aff002;  Institute of Primates Research, National Museums of Kenya, Nairobi, Kenya aff003;  Estación Biológica de Doñana, Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC), Sevilla, Spain aff004;  Institute of Evolutionary Biology and Environmental Studies (IEU), University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland aff005
Vyšlo v časopise: PLoS ONE 14(12)
Kategorie: Research Article


Although historical records indicate the presence of Ehrlichia and Babesia in African elephants, not much is known about their prevalence and diversity in elephants and their ticks, Amblyomma thollonii and Rhipicephalus humeralis. We amplified and sequenced the hypervariable V4 region of the 18S rRNA gene of Babesia and Theileria and the heat shock protein gene (groEL) of Ehrlichia/Anaplasma in DNA extracted from elephant blood (n = 104) and from elephant ticks (n = 52). Our results showed that the African elephants were infected with a novel Babesia spp. while A. thollonii was infected with Theileria bicornis and Theileria cf. velifera. This is the first record of T. bicornis; a protozoan that is linked to fatal infection in rhinoceros in a tick. Elephants and their ticks were all infected with a species of Ehrlichia like that identified in Japanese deer. The prevalence of Babesia spp., Theileria spp. and Ehrlichia spp. in ticks was higher than that of their elephant hosts. About 13.5% of elephants were positive for Theileria or Babesia while 51% of A. thollonii ticks and 27% of R. humeralis ticks were positive for Theileria or Babesia. Moreover, 5.8% of elephants were positive for Ehrlichia or Anaplasma compared to 19.5% in A. thollonii and 18% in R. humeralis. There was no association between the positive result in ticks and that of their elephant hosts for either Babesia spp., Theileria spp. or Ehrlichia spp. Our study reveals that the African elephants are naturally infected with Babesia spp and Ehrlichia spp and opens up an opportunity for further studies to determine the role of elephant as reservoirs of tick-borne pathogens, and to investigate their potential in spreading these pathogens as they range extensively. The presence of T. bicornis in A. thollonii also suggests a need for experiments to confirm its vector competence.

Klíčová slova:

Babesia – Elephants – Haplotypes – Polymerase chain reaction – Ticks – Theileria – Ehrlichia – Anaplasma


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