Fifty-nine Hereford cattle susceptible to tick-borne diseases were used as tracer animals to assess the tick challenge and pathogenicity of Theileria parva under field conditions in Zimbabwe. They were moved periodically in groups of five to three commercial farms (one group consisted of four) during seasons of Rhipicephalus appendiculatus nymphal and adult activity. All tracer cattle were herded together with the farm cattle but were not dipped. The nymphal tick counts were high on two of the farms (up to 2000 per animal) but were very low on the third farm (less than ten per animal). On the three farms, 19 out of 24 (76%) tracers had patent Theileria schizonts. There was a range of clinical manifestations of theileriosis with acute and fatal infections occurring on one farm. The adult R. appendiculatus infestations during the wet season numbered 120-800 per animal on the three farms. The disease transmitted by the adults was very pathogenic on the three farms; 30 out of 35 (86%) had severe theileriosis infections. Cattle, which survived the nymphal diseases challenge, showed various degrees of immunity to subsequent T. parva challenge transmitted by adult ticks. Therefore, 13 out of 18 (72%) of these cattle had a second disease episode and the case fatality rate on the three farms was 46%. The factors which determined the epidemiological status of Theileria challenge on the farms, such as the farming systems and presence of wild animals, are discussed.
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