Background: Equine besnoitiosis, caused by Besnoitia bennetti, and equine protozoal myeloencephalitis (EPM), caused by Sarcocystis neurona and Neospora hughesi are relevant equine diseases in the Americas that have been scarcely studied in Europe. Thus, a serosurvey of these cystogenic coccidia was carried out in Southern Spain. A cross-sectional study was performed and serum samples from horses (n = 553), donkeys (n = 85) and mules (n = 83) were included. An in-house enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was employed to identify a Besnoitia spp. infection and positive results were confirmed by an a posteriori western blot. For Neospora spp. and Sarcocystis spp., infections were detected using in-house ELISAs based on the parasite surface antigens N. hughesi rNhSAG1 and S. neurona rSnSAG2/3/4. Risk factors associated with these protozoan infections were also investigated.
Results: Antibodies against Besnoitia spp., Neospora spp. and Sarcocystis spp. infections were detected in 51 (7.1%), 46 (6.4%) and 20 (2.8%) of 721 equids, respectively. The principal risk factors associated with a higher seroprevalence of Besnoitia spp. were the host species (mule or donkey), the absence of shelter and the absence of a rodent control programme. The presence of rodents was the only risk factor for Neospora spp. infection.
Conclusions: This study was the first extensive serosurvey of Besnoitia spp. infection in European equids accomplished by two complementary tests and gives evidence of the presence of specific antibodies in these populations. However, the origin of the infection is still unclear. Further parasite detection and molecular genotyping are needed to identify the causative Besnoitia and Neospora species. Finally, cross-reactions with antibodies directed against other species of Sarcocystis might explain the positive reactions against the S. neurona antigens.
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This study was supported by several research projects (AGL 2010–20,561, CYTED Thematic Network 113RT0469 Protozoovac and by PLATESA S20137ABI-2906). Daniel Gutiérrez Expósito has been financially supported by the Ministry of Science and Innovation (grant no. BES-2011-043753).
The datasets analysed in the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.
Gutiérrez-Expósito, Daniel; García-Bocanegra, Ignacio; Howe, Daniel K.; Arenas-Montes, Antonio; Yeargan, Michelle R.; Ness, SallyAnne L.; Ortega-Mora, Luis M; and Álvarez-García, G., "A Serosurvey of Selected Cystogenic Coccidia in Spanish Equids: First Detection of Anti-Besnoitia spp. Specific Antibodies in Europe" (2017). Veterinary Science Faculty Publications. 37.