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Open Access Short report

Babesia lengau associated with cerebral and haemolytic babesiosis in two domestic cats

Anna-Mari Bosman1, Marinda C Oosthuizen1, Estelle H Venter1, Johan CA Steyl2, Tertius A Gous3 and Barend L Penzhorn1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Tropical Diseases, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa

2 Department of Paraclinical Sciences, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Pretoria, Private Bag X04, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa

3 Specialist Veterinary Pathologist, P.O. Box 5371, Helderberg 7135, South Africa

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:128  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-128

Published: 1 May 2013

Abstract

Background

Although reported sporadically from various countries, feline babesiosis appears to be a significant clinical entity only in South Africa, where Babesia felis is usually incriminated as the causative agent. Babesia lengau, recently described from asymptomatic cheetahs, has now possibly been incriminated as the causative agent in two severe clinical cases in domestic cats.

Findings

Both cats were euthanised in extremis. While typical feline babesiosis in South Africa is an afebrile disease with a chronic manifestation, there was acute onset of severe clinical signs in both cats and their body temperatures were above the normal range when they were presented for treatment. Haemolytic anaemia was confirmed in one case. To our knowledge, this is the first report of cerebral babesiosis in cats.

On reverse line blot 18S rDNA PCR products obtained from both cats showed positive hybridization profiles with the B. lengau species-specific probe. The two partial parasite 18S rRNA gene sequences obtained, showed high sequence similarity (99.9%) to B. lengau. In a representative tree constructed by the neighbor-joining method using the two-parameter model of Kimura the two obtained partial 18S rDNA sequences and that of B. lengau formed a monophyletic group with B. conradae and sequences previously isolated from humans and wildlife in the western USA.

Conclusion

All clinical cases of feline babesiosis in South Africa are not necessarily caused by B. felis. Other piroplasms, e.g. B. lengau, may be incriminated in clinical cases, especially those occurring outside the known endemic area.

Keywords:
Babesia lengau; Cerebral babesiosis; Feline babesiosis; Haemolytic anaemia