Light microscopic manual count is the current gold standard for parasite quantification. The
ability to determine parasite density in whole blood is crucial to understanding disease
pathogenesis and finding a suitable automated method of B. rossi parasite quantification would
facilitate higher throughput and provide results that are more objective. This study investigated
both peripheral capillary and central venous whole blood to estimate the correlations between
light microscopy, flow cytometry and quantitative real-time PCR (qPCR). Furthermore, the use
of SYBR Green I as a DNA marker for the detection and quantification of B. rossi by flow
cytometric analysis was explored.
The study objectives included: a) validating the use of SYBR Green I as DNA marker to detect
and quantify Babesia rossi nucleic acid by flow cytometric analysis; b) correlate B. rossi parasite
density in venous blood quantified by manual count, flow cytometry and qPCR in the same dog;
and c) correlate the parasite density of B. rossi in capillary blood with the parasite density in
venous blood as determined by manual count, flow cytometry and qPCR in the same dog.
Peripheral capillary and central venous blood were sampled from forty naturally B. rossi-infected
dogs and ten healthy control dogs. Samples were analysed by reverse line blot hybridization to
confirm a mono-B. rossi infection. Capillary blood parasite density was quantified using light
microscopic manual counting and venous blood parasitaemia quantified by manual counts, flow
cytometry and qPCR.
Flow cytometry, using SYBR Green I staining, showed promise in quantifying B. rossi nucleic
acid in venous blood. A significant correlation was found between the venous manual counts
and adjusted flow cytometric results (rs = 0.465; P < 0.001), as well as qPCR (rs = -0.500; P <
0.001). A significant correlation was also observed between the capillary manual counts
compared to venous manual counts (rs = 0.793; P < 0.001), adjusted flow cytometric results (rs =
0.399; P = 0.004), and qPCR (rs.= -0.526; P < 0.001).
The study results suggest that qPCR is of value as an alternative to the gold standard manual
count for quantifying B. rossi parasitaemia in canine whole blood and that flow cytometry may
be useful with further refinement of issues such as background fluorescence and the influence