Title page for ETD etd-05242012-164726

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Stoltsz, Wilhelm Heinrich
Email hein.stoltsz@up.ac.za
URN etd-05242012-164726
Document Title Aspects of the epidemiology of Theileria parva infections in cattle and African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in South Africa revealed by tick transmission and sub-inoculation of blood
Degree MSc
Department Veterinary Tropical Diseases
Advisor Name Title
Prof B L Penzhorn Co-Supervisor
Dr N E Collins Supervisor
  • African buffalo
  • Syncerus caffer
  • tick transmission
  • Theileria parva
  • cattle
  • South Africa
Date 2012-04-13
Availability unrestricted
The aim of this study was to investigate three key epidemiological aspects of Theileria parva infections in cattle and African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in South Africa. The first of these was the possible behavioural change (i.e. transformation) of buffalo-derived T. parva (causing classical Corridor disease in cattle) to what might be considered cattle-derived T. parva (causing classical East Coast fever in cattle) after repeated tick-passage in cattle. For the first time a South African isolate of buffalo-derived T. parva was successfully transmitted using Rhipicephalus zambeziensis for eight passages in non-splenectomised cattle. This was achieved despite most animals developing fatal infections with extremely low piroplasm parasitaemias, and without chemotherapeutic intervention. This finding indicates that, contrary to earlier belief, Corridor disease is not a self-limiting disease in cattle, and given the opportunity, could well become established in a cattle population in the absence of buffalo. Despite repeated tick transmission in cattle of the South African buffalo isolate of T. parva used in this study, it did not exhibit the behavioural changes associated with “transformation” to typical cattle-derived T. parva.

Secondly, the potential role of the common waterbuck (Kobus ellipsiprymnus) in the selection of cattle-adapted subpopulations of parasites from buffalo-derived T. parva was investigated. Waterbuck captured in Kruger National Park (KNP) were screened by conventional and molecular diagnostic techniques for Theileria spp. infections. Laboratory-reared R. zambeziensis were fed on captive buffalo confirmed to be naturally infected with T. parva. The ensuing adult ticks were fed on captive waterbuck and cattle. All the waterbuck were found to carry microscopically detectable Theileria sp. piroplasm infections, found by polymerase chain reaction (PCR) diagnosis to belong to a hitherto uncharacterised Theileria species. R. zambeziensis adults which fed as nymphs on the buffalo transmitted fatal T. parva infections to cattle. However, no transmission of T. parva to the waterbuck could be demonstrated clinically or by PCR diagnosis. Also, R. zambeziensis nymphs that were subsequently fed on the waterbuck failed to transmit T. parva to cattle in the ensuing adult stage, confirming the absence of T. parva-group infections in the waterbuck. The results suggest that buffalo in KNP probably do not carry T. parva-group parasites which are readily transmissible to common waterbuck and waterbuck are therefore unlikely to play an important role in the epidemiology of T. parva-group infections in cattle in South Africa.

Thirdly, to investigate the carrier state of buffalo-derived T. parva infections in cattle, blood from infected non-splenectomised and splenectomised carrier cattle was subinoculated to splenectomised cattle. T. parva infections were successfully transmitted by subinoculation of 1000 ml of blood at various intervals after infection to splenectomised recipient cattle. Donor animals comprised of recovered intact cattle, reacting intact cattle or splenectomised recovered cattle. Microscopically detectable piroplasm parasitaemias were detected in all recipients after inoculation. One splenectomised recipient developed a moderate clinical reaction, accompanied by a moderate schizont parasitosis, but recovered spontaneously, confirming persistence of schizonts in some T. parva carrier animals. By contrast, a T. parva piroplasm infection, persisting in a treated recovered splenectomised bovine, in the apparent absence of circulating schizonts, was serially (consecutively) passaged in splenectomised cattle. Seroconversion occurred in all recipient cattle. With the exception of the recipient which developed a clinical reaction and circulating schizonts, none of the recipients showed any clinical signs of T. parva infection. Upon homologous sporozoite challenge with T. parva, two out of three recipient animals with only microscopically detectable piroplasm parasitaemias developed fatal T. parva infections and one recovered after exhibiting severe clinical signs. These findings confirm the stage-specific immunity in T. parva and, contrary to popular belief, the possibility of long-term maintenance of piroplasm parasitaemias in the absence of schizonts in carrier cattle. The technique of subinoculating and establishing virulent T. parva carrier infections in splenectomised cattle also provides a method whereby buffalo-derived parasite stocks may be isolated and maintained for characterisation and the preparation of sporozoite stabilates for inclusion in T. parva vaccines.

Copyright © 2011, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria

Please cite as follows:

Stoltsz, WH 2011, Aspects of the epidemiology of Theileria parva infections in cattle and African buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in South Africa revealed by tick transmission and sub-inoculation of blood, MSc dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-05242012-164726 / >


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