Skip to main content Accessibility help

Molecular characterization of Babesia and Cytauxzoon species in wild South-African meerkats

  • SARAH LECLAIRE (a1) (a2) (a3) (a4), SANDIE MENARD (a5) and ANTOINE BERRY (a6) (a5)


Piroplasms, including Babesia, Cytauxzoon and Theileria species, frequently infect domestic and wild mammals. At present, there is no information on the occurrence and molecular identity of these tick-borne blood parasites in the meerkat, one of South Africa's most endearing wildlife celebrities. Meerkats live in territorial groups, which may occur on ranchland in close proximity to humans, pets and livestock. Blood collected from 46 healthy meerkats living in the South-African Kalahari desert was screened by microscopy and molecular methods, using PCR and DNA sequencing of 18S rRNA and ITS1 genes. We found that meerkats were infected by 2 species: one species related to Babesia sp. and one species related to Cytauxzoon sp. Ninety one percent of the meerkats were infected by the Cytauxzoon and/or the Babesia species. Co-infection occurred in 46% of meerkats. The pathogenicity and vectors of these two piroplasm species remains to be determined.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding author. CEFE-CNRS, 1919 Rte de Mende, 34293 Montpellier cedex 5, France. E-mail:


Hide All
Altschul, S. F., Gish, W., Miller, W., Myers, E. W. and Lipman, D. J. (1990). Basic local alignment search tool. Journal of Molecular Biology 215, 403410.
Bandyopadhyay, S. and Ray, R. (1985). Babesia bengalensis sp (apicomplexa, babesiidae), a new piroplasmid from a common Indian mongoose, Herpestes edwardsi (Geoffroy). Acta Protozoologica 24, 147152.
Blaschitz, M., Narodoslavsky-Gfoeller, M., Kanzler, M., Stanek, G. and Walochnik, J. (2008). Babesia species occurring in Austrian Ixodes ricinus ticks. Applied and Environmental Microbiology 74, 48414846.
Bosman, A.-M., Oosthuizen, M. C., Peirce, M. A., Venter, E. H. and Penzhorn, B. L. (2010). Babesia lengau sp. nov., a novel Babesia species in cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus, Schreber, 1775) populations in South Africa. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 48, 27032708.
Bostrom, B., Wolf, C., Greene, C. and Peterson, D. (2008). Sequence conservation in the rRNA first internal transcribed spacer region of Babesia gibsoni genotype Asia isolates. Veterinary Parasitology 152, 152157.
Dawood, K. E., Morgan, J. A. T., Busfield, F., Srivastava, M., Fletcher, T. I., Sambono, J., Jackson, L. A., Venus, B., Philbey, A. W. and Lew-Tabor, A. E. (2013). Observation of a novel Babesia spp. in Eastern Grey Kangaroos (Macropus giganteus) in Australia. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife 2, 5461.
Dennig, H. (1964). The isolation of Babesia species from wild animals. In Proceedings of the First International Congress of Parasitology, pp. 2426. Rome.
Grewal, M. S. (1957). Two new piroplasms, Babesia (Babesiella) heischi and Babesia (Babesia) hoarei from Peter's pigmy mongoose, Helogale undulata rufula (demonstrated by Professor Garnham). Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene 51, 290291.
Gubbels, J. M., De Vos, A. P., Van der Weide, M., Viseras, J., Schouls, L. M., De Vries, E. and Jongejan, F. (1999). Simultaneous detection of bovine Theileria and Babesia species by reverse line blot hybridization. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 37, 17821789.
Homer, M. J., Aguilar-Delfin, I., Telford, S. R., Krause, P. J. and Persing, D. H. (2000). Babesiosis. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 13, 451469.
Hoogstraal, H. and El Kammah, K. M. (1974). Notes on African Haemahysalis ticks. XII. H. (Rhipistoma) zumpti sp. n. a parasite of small carnivores and squirrels in southern Africa (ixodoidea: ixodidae). The Journal of Parasitology 60, 188197.
Horak, I. G., Chaparro, F., Beaucournu, J. and Louw, J. (1999). Parasites of domestic and wild animals in South Africa. XXXVI. Arthropod parasites of yellow mongooses, Cynictis penicillata (G. Cuvier, 1829). Onderstepoort . Journal of Veterinary Research 66, 3338.
Horak, I. G., Braack, L. E. O., Fourie, L. J. and Walker, J. B. (2000). Parasites of domestic and wild animals in South Africa. XXXVIII. Ixodid ticks collected from 23 wild carnivore species. Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research 67, 239250.
Jordan, N. R., Cherry, M. I. and Manser, M. B. (2007). Latrine distribution and patterns of use by wild meerkats: implications for territory and mate defence. Animal Behaviour 73, 613622.
Lynch, C. D., (1980). Ecology of the suricate, Suricata suricatta and yellow mongoose, Cynictis penicillata with special reference to their reproduction. In Memoirs van die Nasionale Museum, pp. 145. Bloemfontein, South Africa.
Medlin, L., Elwood, H. J., Stickel, S. and Sogin, M. L. (1988). The characterization of enzymatically amplified eukaryotic 16S-like rRNA-coding regions. Gene 71, 491499.
Nijhof, A., Pillay, V., Steyl, J., Prozesky, L., Stoltsz, W., Lawrence, J., Penzhorn, B. and Jongejan, F. (2005). Molecular characterization of Theileria species associated with mortality in four species of African antelopes. Journal of Clinical Microbiology 43, 59075911.
Nijhof, A. M., Penzhorn, B. L., Lynen, G., Mollel, J. O., Morkel, P., Bekker, C. P. and Jongejan, F. (2003). Babesia bicornis sp. nov. and Theileria bicornis sp. nov.: tick-borne parasites associated with mortality in the black rhinoceros (Diceros bicornis). Journal of Clinical Microbiology 41, 22492254.
Peixoto, P., Soares, C., Scofield, A., Santiago, C., Franca, T. and Barros, S. (2007). Fatal cytauxzoonosis in captive-reared lions in Brazil. Veterinary Parasitology 145, 383387.
Penzhorn, B. L. (2006). Babesiosis of wild carnivores and ungulates. Veterinary Parasitology 138, 1121.
Penzhorn, B. L. and Chaparro, F. (1994). Prevalence of Babesia cynicti infection in 3 populations of yellow mongooses (Cynicti penicillata) in the Transvaal, South-Africa. Journal of Wildlife Diseases 30, 557559.
Ristic, M., (1988). Babesiosis of Domestic Animals and Man. CRC Press, Inc, Boca Raton, FL.
Schnittger, L., Rodriguez, A. E., Florin-Christensen, M. and Morrison, D. A. (2012). Babesia: a world emerging. Infection, Genetics and Evolution 12, 17881809.
Shock, B. C., Murphy, S. M., Patton, L. L., Shock, P. M., Olfenbuttel, C., Beringer, J., Prange, S., Grove, D. M., Peek, M. and Butfiloski, J. W. (2011). Distribution and prevalence of Cytauxzoon felis in bobcats (Lynx rufus), the natural reservoir, and other wild felids in thirteen states. Veterinary Parasitology 175, 325330.
Tamura, K., Stecher, G., Peterson, D., Filipski, A. and Kumar, S. (2013). MEGA6: molecular evolutionary genetics analysis version 6.0. Molecular Biology and Evolution 30, 27252729.
van Staaden, M., (1994). Suricata suricatta. Mammalian Species 483, 18.
Wagner, J. (1976). A fatal cytauxzoonosis-like disease in cats. Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 168, 585588.
Yabsley, M. J. and Shock, B. C. (2013). Natural history of zoonotic Babesia: role of wildlife reservoirs. International Journal for Parasitology: Parasites and Wildlife 2, 1831.
Yabsley, M. J., Davidson, W. R., Stallknecht, D. E., Varela, A. S., Swift, P. K., Devos, J. C. and Dubay, S. A. (2005) Evidence of tick-borne organisms in mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) from the western United States. Vector-Borne and Zoonotic Diseases 5, 351362.
Zintl, A., Mulcahy, G., Skerrett, H. E., Taylor, S. M. and Gray, J. S. (2003). Babesia divergens, a bovine blood parasite of veterinary and zoonotic importance. Clinical Microbiology Reviews 16, 622636.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

  • ISSN: 0031-1820
  • EISSN: 1469-8161
  • URL: /core/journals/parasitology
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed