Bovine babesiosis is responsible for serious economic losses in Uruguay. Haemovaccines play an important role in disease prevention, but concern has been raised about their use. It is feared that the attenuated Babesia bovis and Babesia bigemina vaccine strains may be transmitted by the local tick vector Boophilus microplus, and that reversion to virulence could occur. We therefore investigated
the possibility that these strains could be transmitted via the transovarial route in ticks using a Babesia species-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) assay. DNA was extracted from the
developmental stages of the tick vector that had fed on calves immunized with the haemovaccine. It was possible to detect Babesia DNA not only in adult ticks, but also in their eggs and larvae. In addition, it was shown that calves infested with larvae derived from eggs laid by ticks fed on acutely infected calves, were positive for Babesia using PCR. Caution should therefore be shown with the distribution of the haemovaccine in marginal areas. It is still advisable that suitable tick control measures be used to prevent transovarial transmission and the potential risk of attenuated Babesia reverting to virulence.
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