Molecular assessment of Theileria equi and Babesia caballi prevalence in horses and ticks on horses in southeastern France


  • Rocafort-Ferrer Gloria
  • Leblond Agnès
  • Joulié Aurélien
  • René-Martellet Magalie
  • Sandoz Alain
  • Poux Valérie
  • Pradier Sophie
  • Barry Séverine
  • Vial Laurence
  • Legrand Loïc


  • Theileria equi
  • Babesia caballi
  • Piroplasmosis
  • Ticks
  • Horse
  • Rhipicephalus

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Equine piroplasmosis (EP) is a tick-borne disease caused by Babesia caballi and Theileria equi that is potentially emerging in non-endemic countries. We conducted a descriptive study to investigate EP prevalence and spatial distribution in an endemic region: the Camargue and the Plain of La Crau in France. In spring 2015 and 2016, we carried out sampling at stables (total n = 46) with a history of horses presenting chronic fever or weight loss. Overall, we collected blood from 632 horses, which were also inspected for ticks; these horses had been housed in the target stables for at least 1 year. We obtained 585 ticks from these horses and described land use around the stables. Real-time PCR was employed to assess T. equi and B. caballi prevalence in the horses and in the ticks found on the horses. For the horses, T. equi and B. caballi prevalence was 68.6% and 6.3%, respectively. For the ticks found on the horses, prevalence was 28.8% for T. equi and 0.85% for B. caballi. The most common tick species were, in order of frequency, Rhipicephalus bursa , R. sanguineus sl. , Hyalomma marginatum , Haemaphysalis punctata , and Dermacentor sp. Horses bearing Rhipicephalus ticks occurred in wetter zones, closer to agricultural areas, permanent crops, and ditches, as well as in drier zones, in the more northern countryside. Compared to horses bearing R. bursa , horses bearing R. sanguineus sl. more frequently occurred near the Rhone River. Prevalence of T. equi in the ticks was as follows: Hyalomma marginatum (43%), Dermacentor sp. (40%), R. bursa (33%), R. sanguineus sl. (19%), and Haemaphysalis punctata (17%). In contrast, B. caballi only occurred in Dermacentor sp. (20%) and R. bursa (1%).

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