Wild deer in the United Kingdom are a potential reservoir for the livestock parasite Babesia divergens

Alexander Gray, Paul Capewell, Ruth Zadoks, Mark A. Taggart, Andrew S. French, Frank Katzer, Brian R. Shiels, William Weir

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Redwater fever is an economically important disease of cattle in the United Kingdom caused by the protozoan parasite Babesia divergens. Control efforts are dependent on accurate local historic knowledge of disease occurrence,
together with an accurate appreciation of current underlying risk factors. Importantly, the involvement of red deer in the transmission of this pathogen in the UK remains unclear. We employed a polymerase chain reaction
approach combined with DNA sequencing to investigate Babesia infections in livestock and red deer at a UK farm with a history of tick-borne disease. This revealed several B. divergens-infected cattle that were not displaying
overt clinical signs. Additionally, 11% of red deer on the farmland and surrounding areas were infected with this parasite. We also found that 16% of the red deer were infected with Babesia odocoilei, the first time this parasite
has been detected in the UK. The finding of B. divergens in the red deer population updates our knowledge of epidemiology in the UK and has implications for the effective control of redwater fever.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)100019
JournalCurrent Research in Parasitology & Vector-Borne Diseases
Early online date17 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 17 Mar 2021


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