Equine piroplasmosis imposes great concerns for the equine industry regarding international horse movement, and therefore requires reliable diagnostic tools. Recent studies from South Africa and Jordan, including a preliminary study in Israel, reported extremely low seroprevalence to Babesia caballi (. B. caballi) (0-1%) using the acceptable rhoptry-associated protein-1 (RAP-1) cELISA. In accordance with the study from South Africa demonstrating a significant heterogeneity in the rap-1 gene sequence of South African B. caballi isolates, the objectives of this study were to phylogenetically characterize the rap-1 gene of the Israeli isolates and determine the prevalence of B. caballi in horses in Israel. Out of 273 horses tested using the RAP-1 cELISA, only one was sero-positive, while 9.3% were positive on PCR performed on the rap-1 gene. Phylogenetic analysis of the rap-1 gene grouped the Israeli isolates in a cluster together with the South African strains (99% nt identity), but in a separate cluster from the American/Caribbean strains (81-82% nt identity). These findings support the existence of heterogeneity in the RAP-1 amino-acid sequences of the Israeli and South African isolates as compared to that used in the cELISA commercial kit and raise doubts as to the ability of this assay to serve as a sole regulatory test for international horse movement. Risk factor analysis found management and age to significantly associate with prevalence of B. caballi, as higher prevalence was noted in horses held out on pasture and a negative association was recorded with age. In addition, B. caballi was not detected in horses in the steppe-arid and extreme-arid climatic regions as compared to the wetter regions. Findings of this study emphasize the need to combine several detection methods to ameliorate the control and spread of the disease.
- Babesia caballi