Recently reported substantial genetic diversity within Theileria equi 18S rRNA gene sequences has led to the identification of five genotypes A, B, C, D, and E, complicating molecular and serological diagnosis. In addition, T. haneyi has lately been reported as a species closely related to the T. equi 18S rRNA genotype C (Knowles et al., 2018). Theileria spp. of this group have a monophyletic origin and are therefore referred to as Equus group to distinguish them from the remaining Theileria lineages (Jalovecka et al., 2019). In this study, we report on the development of genotype-specific quantitative real-time PCR assays capable of detecting and distinguishing between each parasite genotype. Alignment of complete 18S rRNA sequences available on GenBank allowed for the design of a single primer pair and five TaqMan minor groove binder (MGB™) probes specific for each genotype (A–E). The assays, evaluated as qPCR simplex and two qPCR multiplex formats (Multiplex EP–ABC and Multiplex EP–DE), were shown to be both efficient and specific in the detection of T. equi genotypes. The developed qPCR assays were used to study (i) the intra-specific diversity of parasite genotypes within horse and zebra, (ii) the inter-specific differences in parasite genotype diversity in horses as compared to zebra, and (iii) the geographic distribution of T. equi 18S rRNA genotypes in South Africa. In addition, (iv) the presence of T. haneyi in South Africa was evaluated. An assessment of 342 equine field samples comprising 149 field horses, 55 racehorses, and 138 wild zebra confirmed the previously reported presence of T. equi 18S rRNA genotypes A, B, C, and D, and absence of genotype E in South African equids. Theileria equi genotypes A, B, C, and D, were detected in zebra, whereas only genotypes A, C and D, could be identified in field horses, and only genotypes A and C in racehorses. Genotypes B and D were the dominant genotypes identified in zebra in South Africa, while horses were predominantly infected with T. equi genotypes A and C. The greater diversity of T. equi genotypes in zebra suggests that it is an ancestral host for this piroplasmid lineage. Importantly, evidence is presented that each identified T. equi genotype segregates independently in each of the three studied equid populations reinforcing the notion that they represent individual separate entities corresponding to species. Preliminary investigations of the relationship between T. equi genotype C infections and Theileria haneyi, suggest that in addition to the five currently known T. equi genotypes, South African equids are also infected with T. haneyi.
|Journal||Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases|
|Early online date||16 Dec 2019|
|Publication status||Published - 28 Jan 2020|
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by the South African National Research Foundation (Grant number 112075 ), the JE Biliary Disease Trust fund and the Joy Liebenberg Trust fund .
This research was supported by the South African National Research Foundation (Grant number 112075), the JE Biliary Disease Trust fund and the Joy Liebenberg Trust fund.
© 2019 Elsevier GmbH