Haemoparasite prevalence and Theileria parva strain diversity in Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in Uganda

Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) are considered to be an important reservoir for various tick-borne haemoparasites of veterinary importance. In this study we have compared the haemoparasite carrier prevalence in buffalo from four geographically isolated national parks in Uganda [Lake Mburo National Park (LMNP), Queen Elizabeth National Park (QENP), Murchison Falls National Park (MFNP) and Kidepo Valley National Park (KVNP)]. Differences were seen in haemoparasite prevalence in buffalo from the four national parks. All the buffalo sampled in LMNP were carriers of Theileria parva however, buffalo from MFNP and KVNP, which are both located in the north of Uganda, were negative for T. parva. Interestingly, 95% of buffalo in the northern part of QENP were T. parva positive, however all buffalo sampled in the south of the park were negative. A high multiplicity of infection was recorded in all the buffalo found to be carrying T. parva, with evidence of at least nine parasite genotypes in some animals. Most of the buffalo sampled in all four national parks were carriers of T. mutans and T. velifera, however none were carriers of T. taurotragi, Babesia bovis, Babesia bigemina, Ehrlichia bovis or Ehrlichia ruminantium. All the buffalo sampled from LMNP were positive for T. buffeli and T. sp. (buffalo) however, buffalo from the parks in the north of the country (KVNP and MFNP) were negative for these haemoparasites. Anaplasma centrale and Anaplasma marginale were circulating in buffalo from all four national parks. T. parva gene pools from two geographically separated populations of buffalo in two of the national parks in Uganda (LMNP and QENP) were compared. The T. parva populations in the two national parks were distinct, indicating that there was limited gene flow between the populations. The results presented highlight the complexity of tick-borne pathogen infections in buffalo and the significant role that buffalo may play as reservoir hosts for veterinary haemoparasites that have the potential to cause severe disease in domestic cattle.

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