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A review on bovine besnoitiosis: a disease with economic impact in herd health management, caused by Besnoitia besnoiti (Franco and Borges, 1916)



Bovine besnoitiosis is caused by the largely unexplored apicomplexan parasite Besnoitia besnoiti. In cows, infection during pregnancy often results in abortion, and chronically infected bulls become infertile. Similar to other apicomplexans B. besnoiti has acquired a largely intracellular lifestyle, but its complete life cycle is still unknown, modes of transmission have not been entirely resolved and the definitive host has not been identified. Outbreaks of bovine besnoitiosis in cattle were described in the 1990s in Portugal and Spain, and later several cases were also detected in France. More cases have been reported recently in hitherto unaffected countries, including Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Hungary and Croatia. To date, there is still no effective pharmaceutical compound available for the treatment of besnoitiosis in cattle, and progress in the identification of novel targets for intervention through pharmacological or immunological means is hampered by the lack of molecular data on the genomic and transcriptomic level. In addition, the lack of an appropriate small animal laboratory model, and wide gaps in our knowledge on the host-parasite interplay during the life cycle of this parasite, renders vaccine and drug development a cost- and labour-intensive undertaking.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding authors: Institute of Parasitology, Vetsuisse Faculty, University of Bern, Länggass-Strasse 122, CH-3012 Bern, Switzerland. E-mail:; Alexandre Leitão, Instituto de Investigação Científica Tropical, CVZ, CIISA Faculdade de Medicina Veterinária, Universidade de Lisboa, 1300-447 Lisboa, Portugal. E-mail:


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