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ARS Home » Pacific West Area » Pullman, Washington » Animal Disease Research » Research » Research Project #440983

Research Project: Control Strategies for Cattle Fever Ticks and Bovine Babesiosis in the United States

Location: Animal Disease Research

Project Number: 2090-32000-040-023-S
Project Type: Non-Assistance Cooperative Agreement

Start Date: Sep 1, 2021
End Date: Aug 31, 2026

In the United States, cattle are at constant risk of infection with emerging tick-borne pathogens such as Babesia bovis and B. bigemina. Infection of naïve cattle with this parasite results in severe disease and high mortality. Consequently, an outbreak of bovine babesiosis would have a devastating effect on U.S. agriculture and could compromise food security in the U.S. The U.S. imports ~1M cattle per year from Mexico, many of which are asymptomatic but persistently infected cattle that could serve as reservoirs for tick acquisition and transmission of Babesia. If cattle fever ticks become re-established in the U.S., there is a serious risk of transmission from imported cattle to native immunologically naïve cattle resulting in a severe disease outbreak. There are no current vaccines against bovine babesiosis or the tick vector, Rhipicephalus microplus, as preventive measures in the U.S. The knowledge gap regarding cattle fever ticks and bovine babesiosis is associated with the potential threat that ticks and Babesia parasites could rapidly invade cattle herds in the southern U.S. To solve this problem our collaboration will focus on the development of strategies to control both the tick vectors and Babesia parasites. The information gathered in this project is critical for protecting the U.S. cattle industry. The Cooperator will provide new genetic data to assist the USDA-ARS in the following Objectives: 1) Develop anti-tick vaccines to control tick infestation of cattle. 2) Discover proteins involved in tick acquisition and transmission of Babesia. 3) Identify new variation in Babesia genes through bait capture enrichment of genomic DNA from positive tick samples.

Tick-borne Apicomplexan parasites remain a great concern and challenge for disease control. Due to inefficient and unsafe strategies to prevent Babesia infection, a new frontier needs to be explored to prevent outbreaks in the U.S. In this cooperative agreement with Northern Arizona University, we will evaluate the genetic variation of ticks responsible for transmitting parasites that cause bovine babesiosis from naturally infested animals to develop an efficient vaccine to prevent tick feeding of cattle. We will discover tick proteins that allow the parasite to infect ticks. Also, we will identify genome-wide variation in Babesia sequenced from positive ticks using genome bait capture enrichment. Accomplishing these objectives will develop an efficient strategy to mitigate bovine babesiosis from entering the United States.