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Abstract
Christina Ramos

Fellow – Christina Ramos

Mentor – Patricia Holman

Project – Screening for bovine Babesia species in white tail deer in southern Texas using molecular markers

Objective – This study will determine if white-tailed deer serve as a transient host for the bovine hemoparasite, Babesia bovis. A secondary goal of this study is to optimize primers used to molecularly screen for distinct Babesia species.

Sample Population – Blood samples screened were collected from 97 free-ranging white tailed deer on ranches in LaSalle and Webb Counties in Texas.

Procedure – Nested PCR was used to amplify a 900 base-pair 18SrRNA gene segment from B. bovis. Any positive samples seen on gel electrophoresis were sequenced to confirm the presence of Babesia and to confirm the species present. The samples were screened for other Babesia spp. to determine if other protozoa were present and if their presence interfered with the test.

Results – Using the 18srRNA marker, 8/49 (16 %) of LaSalle County samples appeared to contain B. bovis DNA. Two of these samples were sequenced and a BLAST search indicated that the isolates were 99% identical to B. bovis 18S rDNA. Webb County deer had 2/47 (4.2%) positive samples for B. bovis, with one sample being confirmed through sequencing.

Conclusions and Clinical Relevance – Finding of Babesia bovis DNA in white tailed deer supports the hypothesis that deer may act as a transient host for B. bovis and may contribute to B. bovis infections in cattle. It is important to monitor the prevalence of B. bovis because of the great economic impact it can have on the beef cattle industry.