Prevalence of protozoan parasites in small and medium mammals in Texas, USA
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Wildlife interaction with humans increases the risk of potentially infected ticks seeking an opportunistic blood meal and consequently leading to zoonotic transmission. In the United States, human babesiosis is a tick-borne zoonosis most commonly caused by the intraerythrocytic protozoan parasite, Babesia microti. The presence of Babesia microti and other species of Babesia within Texas has not been well characterized, and the molecular prevalence of these pathogens within wildlife species is largely unknown. Small (e.g. rodents) and medium sized mammalian species (e.g. racoons) represent potential reservoirs for specific species of Babesia, though this relationship has not been thoroughly evaluated within Texas. This study aimed to characterize the molecular prevalence of Babesia species within small and medium sized mammals at two sites in East Texas with an emphasis on detection of pathogen presence in these two contrasting wild mammal groups at these sites. To that end, a total of 480 wild mammals representing eight genera were trapped, sampled, and screened for Babesia species using the TickPath layerplex qPCR assay. Two sites were selected for animal collection, including The Big Thicket National Preserve and Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area. Molecular analysis revealed the prevalence of various Babesia and Hepathozoon species at 0.09% each, and Sarcocystis at 0.06% . Continued molecular prevalence surveys of tick-borne pathogens in Texas wild mammals will be needed to provide novel information as to which species of Babesia are most prevalent and identify specific wildlife species as pathogen reservoirs.
author list (cited authors)
Modarelli, J. J., Westrich, B. J., Milholland, M., Tietjen, M., Castro-Arellano, I., Medina, R. F., & Esteve-Gasent, M. D.