Babesia species in Slovakia

Authors: Bronislava Víchová 1    Lucia Blaňarová 1    Viktória Majláthová 1    Božena Haklová-Kočíková 1    Branislav Peťko 1   
1 Parazitologický ústav SAV, Kosice, Slovensko   
Year: 2015
Section: Ecology and Environmental Sciences
Abstract No.: 1259
ISBN: 978-80-970712-8-8

In Slovakia, babesiosis was primarily a problem of the 50's of the last century. The local overgrowth of the ornate dog tick (Dermacentor reticulatus) population, transmitting Babesia divergens, caused severe damage to livestock, particularly in the southern and southeastern Slovakia.

At the beginning of a new millennium, infections have begun to occur sporadically again, in dogs. First autochthonous report of canine babesiosis, caused by Babesia canis, was described in 2001 (Chandoga et al. 2001). Since then, the number of cases is growing exponentially every year. Currently, Slovakia is considered a country with the endemic occurrence of canine babesiosis.

In Europe, human infections are caused by B. divergens, B. bovis and B. ventorum. The first case of human babesiosis in Europe was described in 1957 in Yugoslavia (Škrabalo and Deanovic, 1957). Since then, at least 40 cases have been confirmed in Europe, including 2 infections caused by B. microti in patients from Switzerland and Germany (Meer-Scherrer et al., 2004, Hildenbrand et al., 2007).  

Phylogenetic analyses confirmed that B. microti is a complex species, consisting of genetically diverse isolates that constitute three clades (Goethert and Telford 2003). Within these clades, rodent isolates are subdivided into zoonotic and nonzoonotic strains. These strains circulate in natural foci altogether or independently by different rodent species. There are assumptions that in the circulation of human pathogenic ecotypes, yellow-necked mouse (A. flavicollis), which is very frequent in natural foci of Slovakia, might be predominantly involved.

The main aim of our ongoing project entitled “Babesioses in Slovakia” is to determine the presence of members of the Babesiadae family in the vector ticks and hosts in Slovakia. To date, apart from B. canis, we have confirmed the circulation of two B. microti strains in ticks and rodents, with the predominant occurrence of pathogenic “Jena strain” and sporadic evidence of “Munich strain”; the presence of B. venatorum in ticks as well as B. odocoilei in deer.

Recently, we have confirmed the presence of Babesia gibsoni in dogs from western Slovakia for the first time (Víchová et al., in press).

The study was supported by the project of Research & Development Operational Programme funded by the ERDF (ITMS: 26220220116) (0,1); by the projects of Slovak Research and Development Agency APVV 0267-10 and VEGA 2/0113/12.