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Ticks and tick-borne diseases (TBD) are widely distributed in Ethiopia and contribute to important economic losses. Babesiosis, anaplasmosis, heartwater and theileriosis have all been reported to occur, but detailed investigations into the epidemiology of TBD from cattle using sensitive molecular detection methods are scarce.
Ticks and blood samples were collected in July and August 2013 from a total of 392 healthy cattle in the Illubabor zone, Western Ethiopia. The majority of cattle were infested with ticks (360/392, 92%). Only ticks belonging to the Amblyomma and Rhipicephalus genera were found. The most prevalent tick species was Amblyomma cohaerens (762/1781, 42.8%), followed by Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) decoloratus (722/1781, 40.5%) and Amblyomma variegatum (94/1781, 5.29%). Microscopic examination of Giemsa-stained blood smears revealed that 67 out of 392 (17.1%) samples were positive for at least one tick-borne pathogen. The majority of positive slides, 42/67 (62.7%) were found to be positive for Theileria spp., 23 slides (5.9%) were positive for Anaplasma spp. and Babesia spp. were detected in 7 slides (1.8%). Screening of the blood samples using the PCR / reverse line blot (RLB) hybridization assay for the simultaneous detection of Anaplasma, Ehrlichia, Babesia and Theileria spp. is ongoing.
Cattle of the Illubabor zone, Western Ethiopia are exposed to ticks and tick-borne pathogens. Detailed molecular studies to determine the prevalence of TBD in Illubabor zone are being undertaken. It is expected that outcomes of this study will be useful in the planning of integrated control strategies for ticks and TBD in this region.