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Research Project: Development of Detection and Control Strategies for Bovine Babesiosis and Equine Piroplasmosis

Location: Animal Disease Research

Title: Stray Mexico origin cattle captured crossing into Southern Texas carry Babesia bovis and other tick-borne pathogens

item Scoles, Glen
item Lohmeyer, Kimberly - Kim
item Ueti, Massaro
item BONILLA, DENISE - Animal And Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS)
item LAHMERS, KEVIN - University Of Maryland
item PICCIONE, JULIE - Texas A&M University
item ROGOVSKYY, ARTEM - Texas A&M University

Submitted to: Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/9/2021
Publication Date: 3/17/2021
Citation: Scoles, G.A., Lohmeyer, K.H., Ueti, M.W., Bonilla, D., Lahmers, K.K., Piccione, J., Rogovskyy, A.S. 2021. Stray Mexico origin cattle captured crossing into Southern Texas carry Babesia bovis and other tick-borne pathogens. Ticks and Tick Borne Diseases. 12(5). Article 101708.

Interpretive Summary: Tick-borne pathogens pose a significant challenge to U.S. livestock production. The goal of this study was to determine if stray livestock apprehended at the Texas-Mexico border are infected Babesia, Theileria, Anaplasma, and Borrelia. The results demonstrated that more than 50% of stray cattle were infected with one or more pathogens. The data illustrated that these stray cattle pose a significant risk to the U.S. beef industry.

Technical Abstract: Inspectors from the USDA, APHIS Cattle Fever Tick Eradication Program (CFTEP) monitor the quarantine zone along the Texas border to prevent the introduction of livestock carrying cattle fever ticks from Mexico. Stray livestock apprehended by CFTEP in the zone are checked for ticks and tested for infectious diseases but are not evaluated for infection with tick-borne pathogens. We tested blood samples collected by CFTEP inspectors for infection with tick-borne pathogens. For comparison we tested blood samples that had been sent to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) for unrelated testing. Both sets of blood samples were evaluated using the same specific and broad-spectrum PCR assays. For the border cattle the overall prevalence of infection with one or more tick-borne pathogen was 58.5% (79/135) with many co-infections, including 30 cattle positive for Babesia bovis and/or B. bigemina (22.2%) and 77 cattle positive for Anaplasma marginale (57%), three of these animals were also positive for Borrelia theileri. No resident cattle represented by the TVMDL samples were infected with either of the Babesia sp., or with Borrelia theileri, but three were positive for Theileria orientalis and 7.3% (7/96) were positive for A. marginale. These data show that cattle originating in Mexico have a higher prevalence of infection with tick-borne pathogens relative to resident U.S. cattle and specifically, a proportion are infected with bovine Babesia, which is absent from U.S. cattle populations. Consequently, these stray cattle may undermine the CFTEP and pose a significant risk to the U.S. beef industry if Boophilus ticks become reestablished in areas where they had previously been eradicated.