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  • Cited by 2
  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: August 2009

14 - Theileria: life cycle stages associated with the ixodid tick vector

    • By R. Bishop, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) P.O. Box 30709 Nairobi 00100 Kenya, A. Musoke, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute Private Bag X5 Onderstepoort 0110 South Africa, R. Skilton, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) P.O. Box 30709 Nairobi 00100 Kenya, S. Morzaria, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) 39 Phra Atit Road Bangkok 10200 Thailand, M. Gardner, Seattle Biomedical Research Institute 307 Westlake Ave. N. Suite 500 Seattle WA 98109 USA, V. Nene, The Institute for Genomic Research (TIGR) 9712 Medical Center Drive Rockville MD 20850 USA
  • Edited by Alan S. Bowman, University of Aberdeen, Patricia A. Nuttall
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • DOI:
  • pp 308-324



The genus Theileria comprises tick-transmitted sporozoan protozoa that are the causative agents of a variety of disease syndromes in domestic and wild ruminants, and are collectively responsible for economic losses amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars annually in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Theileria are unique among protozoa, in that certain species are capable of immortalizing either mammalian lymphocytes, or cells of the monocyte/macrophage lineage that they infect. Theileria has been included within a subphylum designated the Apicomplexa, based on the common possession of an apical complex containing secretory organelles involved in invasion, or establishment, in the cells of their mammalian and invertebrate hosts. However the evolutionary and functional equivalence of the apical complex between different genera and hence the taxonomic validity of the Apicomplexa remains unclear. Analysis of 18S ribosomal RNA gene sequences demonstrates that the genus Theileria is phylogenetically most closely related to Babesia, a genus of tick-borne protozoan infective to the red cells of mammals including domestic livestock, and more distantly to the genus Plasmodium which causes malaria in humans and other species of vertebrates (Allsopp et al., 1994). There are similarities, but also significant differences, in features of the life cycle, genome organization and mammalian host immune responses to infection between Theileria and Plasmodium.

Economically important Theileria species that infect cattle and small ruminants are transmitted by ixodid ticks of the genera Rhipicephalus, Amblyomma, Hyalomma and Haemaphysalis. Theileria species infective to domestic ruminants are summarized in Table 14.1.

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