Theileria infection in domestic ruminants in northern Ethiopia

Hagos Gebrekidan, Asrat Hailu, Aysheshm Kassahun, Iva Rohoušová, Carla Maia, Dalit Talmi-Frank, Alon Warburg, Gad Baneth*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

65 Scopus citations


Piroplasmosis caused by different tick-borne hemoprotozoan parasites of the genera Theileria and Babesia is among the most economically important infections of domestic ruminants in sub-Saharan Africa. A survey for piroplasm infection was conducted in three locations in Northern Ethiopia. Of 525 domestic ruminants surveyed, 80% of the cattle, 94% of the sheep and 2% of the goats were positive for different Theileria spp. based on PCR of blood followed by DNA sequencing. Sheep had a significantly higher rate of infection compared with cattle (P<0.0003) and both sheep and cattle had higher rates of infection compared to goats (P<0.0001). Four species of Theileria were detected in cattle: T. velifera, T. mutans, T. orientalis complex and T. annulata with infection rates of 66, 8, 4, and 2%, respectively. This is the first report of T. annulata, the cause of Tropical Theileriosis in Ethiopia. Of the two Theileria spp. detected in small ruminants, T. ovis was highly prevalent (92%) in sheep and rare in goats (1.5%) whereas T. seperata was infrequent in sheep (2%) and rare in goats (0.4%). None of the animals were positive for Babesia spp.; however, Sarcocystis capracanis and S. tenella were detected in one goat and a sheep, respectively. The widespread distribution of Theileria spp. among cattle in northern Ethiopia including the virulent T. annulata and more mildly pathogenic T. mutans and T. orientalis, and the high infection rate in sheep with the usually sub-clinical T. ovis indicate extensive exposure to ticks and transmission of piroplasms with an important economic impact.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)31-38
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 24 Feb 2014

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors thank Drs. Osnat Eyal, Yaarit Biala, Roni King and Daniel Yasur-Landau and Prof. Charles Jaffe for their assistance. We also thank Dr. Hillary Voet for assisting with the statistical analysis of the results. Sample collection was funded by The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Global Health Program (grant number OPPGH5336 ) “Ecology and transmission dynamics of Visceral Leishmaniasis in Ethiopia”. Author C. Maia ( SFRH/BPD/44082/2008 ) holds a Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia fellowship from Portugal.


  • Ethiopia
  • Sarcocystis capracanis
  • Sarcocystis tenella
  • Theileria annulata
  • Theileria orientalis


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