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Geographic distribution of Theileria sp. (buffalo) and Theileria sp. (bougasvlei) in Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in southern Africa: implications for speciation

  • RONEL PIENAAR (a1) (a2), ABDALLA A. LATIF (a1) (a3), ORIEL M. M. THEKISOE (a2) and BEN J. MANS (a1) (a3) (a4)


Strict control measures apply to movement of buffalo in South Africa including testing for Theileria parva, the causative agent of Corridor disease in cattle. The official test is a real-time hybridization PCR assay that amplifies the 18S rRNA V4 hyper-variable region of T. parva, T. sp. (buffalo) and T. sp. (bougasvlei). Mixed infections with the latter organisms affect diagnostic sensitivity due to PCR suppression. While the incidence of mixed infections in the Corridor disease endemic region of South Africa is significant, little information is available on the specific distribution and prevalence of T. sp. (buffalo) and T. sp. (bougasvlei). Specific real-time PCR assays were developed and a total of 1211 samples known to harbour these parasites were screened. Both parasites are widely distributed in southern Africa and the incidence of mixed infections with T. parva within the endemic region is similar (∼25–50%). However, a significant discrepancy exists in regard to mixed infections of T. sp. (buffalo) and T. sp. (bougasvlei) (∼10%). Evidence for speciation between T. sp. (buffalo) and T. sp. (bougasvlei) is supported by phylogenetic analysis of the COI gene, and their designation as different species. This suggests mutual exclusion of parasites and the possibility of hybrid sterility in cases of mixed infections.


Corresponding author

* Corresponding author: Parasites, Vectors and Vector-Borne Diseases, Agricultural Research Council-Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute, Onderstepoort 0110, South Africa. E-mail:


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Geographic distribution of Theileria sp. (buffalo) and Theileria sp. (bougasvlei) in Cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) in southern Africa: implications for speciation

  • RONEL PIENAAR (a1) (a2), ABDALLA A. LATIF (a1) (a3), ORIEL M. M. THEKISOE (a2) and BEN J. MANS (a1) (a3) (a4)


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