Diagnostic performance of a rapid immunochromatographic test for the simultaneous detection of antibodies to Theileria equi and Babesia caballi in horses and donkeys

Frans Jongejan*, Cheng Du, Elias Papadopoulos, Valeria Blanda, Santina Di Bella, Vincenza Cannella, Annalisa Guercio, Domenico Vicari, Sharon Tirosh-Levy, Amir Steinman, Gad Baneth, Sanna van Keulen, Iris Hulsebos, Laura Berger, Xiaojun Wang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Equine piroplasmosis is caused by two tick-borne protozoan parasites, Theileria equi and Babesia caballi,, which are clinically relevant in susceptible horses, donkeys, and mules. Moreover, equine piroplasmosis significantly constrains international trading and equestrian events. Rapidly diagnosing both parasites in carrier animals is essential for implementing effective control measures. Here, a rapid immunochromatographic test for the simultaneous detection of antibodies to T. equi and B. caballi was evaluated using samples from horses and donkeys collected in Greece, Israel, and Italy. The results were compared with an improved competitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (cELISA) for detecting antibodies to both parasites using the same panel of samples. Methods: Blood samples were collected from 255 horses and donkeys. The panel consisted of 129 horses sampled at four locations in northern Greece, 105 donkeys sampled at four locations in Sicily, and 21 horses sampled at two locations in Israel. The rapid test and the cELISA were performed according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and the results were subjected to a statistical analysis to determine the sensitivity and specificity of both tests and their association. Results: The immunochromatographic test provided a result within 15 min and can be performed in the field, detecting both pathogens simultaneously. The overall coincidence rate between the rapid test and the cELISA for detecting antibodies against T. equi was 93% and 92.9% for B. caballi. The rapid test’s sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value (PPV), and negative predictive value (NPV) for T. equi were above 91.5%. Sixteen samples were positive for both parasites in the rapid test and eight in the cELISA. Either test had no significant association between T. equi and B. caballi detection. The detection rates of both parasites were significantly higher in Italy than in Greece or Israel and in donkeys than in horses. The agreement for T. equi between the results of both tests was high in Greece (93.8%) and Italy (95.2%) and moderate in Israel (76.2%). For B. caballi, the specificity and NPV of the rapid test were high (94.2% and 98.3%, respectively), although the sensitivity and PPV were moderate (69.2% and 39.1%, respectively) due to the small sample size. However, for B. caballi, the sensitivity was higher with the rapid test. Conclusions: The rapid test detected T. equi and B. caballi simultaneously in the field, potentially replacing laborious cELISA testing and is recommended for import/export purposes. The test can also be helpful for the differential diagnosis of clinical cases, since seropositivity may rule out equine piroplasmosis since it does not indicate current or active infection. Graphical Abstract: (Figure presented.)

Original languageAmerican English
Article number160
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024

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© The Author(s) 2024.


  • Babesia caballi
  • Competitive ELISA
  • Donkeys
  • Equine piroplasmosis
  • Horses
  • Immunochromatographic test
  • Theileria equi


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