Serological investigation of Theileria equi and Babesia caballi infections in horses, Port Harcourt Polo Club, Nigeria
Equine babesiosis is the most important tick-borne disease which is endemic in most tropical and sub-tropical areas. Chronic cases lead to loss of condition, poor exercise tolerance and slow recovery. The present study was aimed at investigating Theileria equi and Babesia caballi infections in Port Harcourt Polo Club using serological approach. 35 polo horses consisting of 11 female and 24 males and aged between 6 months and 15 years were screened for babesia parasites using indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT). Physical examination of the horses showed Rhipicephalus species of ticks on different parts of some of the horses. Haematological, some biochemical and IFA tests were carried out using standard methods. 25(71%) of the samples were seropositive to IFAT. 5(14%) of the samples were positive for B. caballi while 9(25.7%) were positive for T. equi. 11(31.4%) tested positive for both B. caballi and T. equi. 6(17%) of the horses that tested positive to IFAT were less than 5 years and 19(54%) were more than 5 years. The mean PCV, Hb concentration, RBC counts and WBC counts of the positive horses were lower than normal values. Total bilirubin and alanine aminotransferase values were significantly higher in IFAT positive horses compared to non-infected horses. This study provided a high prevalence of equine babesiosis and supported the use of IFAT for the detection of latent cases of piroplasmosis in Port Harcourt Polo horses. More research should be geared towards effective vector control and treatment of infected and carrier horses in horses.
Keywords: Equine babesiosis; indirect fluorescent antibody test; Rhipicephalus species.