The impact of tick-borne pathogen infection in Indian bovines is determined by host type but not the genotype of Theileria annulata

Infect Genet Evol. 2019 Nov:75:103972. doi: 10.1016/j.meegid.2019.103972. Epub 2019 Jul 22.


Tick-borne pathogens (TBP) are a major source of production loss and a welfare concern in livestock across the globe. Consequently, there is a trade-off between keeping animals that are tolerant to TBP infection, but are less productive than more susceptible breeds. Theileria annulata is a major TBP of bovines, with different host types (i.e. exotic and native cattle breeds, and buffalo) displaying demonstrable differences in clinical susceptibility to infection. However, the extent to which these differences are driven by genetic/physiological differences between hosts, or by different parasite populations/genotypes preferentially establishing infection in different host breeds and species is unclear. In this study, three different bovine host types in India were blood sampled to test for the presence of various TBP, including Theileria annulata, to determine whether native cattle (Bos indicus breeds), crossbreed cattle (Bos taurus x Bos indicus breeds) or water buffalo (Bubalus bubalis) differ in the physiological consequences of infection. Population genetic analyses of T. annulata isolated from the three different host types was also performed, using a panel of mini- and micro-satellite markers, to test for sub-structuring of the parasite population among host types. We discovered that compared to other host types, "carrier" crossbreed cattle showed a higher level of haematological pathology when infected with T. annulata. Despite this finding, we found no evidence for differences in the genotypes of T. annulata infecting different host types, although buffalo appeared to harbour fewer mixed parasite genotype infections, indicating they are not the major reservoir of parasite diversity. The apparent tolerance/resistance of native breed cattle and buffalo to the impacts of T. annulata infection is thus most likely to be driven by host genotype, rather than differences in the parasite population. Our results suggest that an improved understanding of the genetic factors that underpin disease resistance could help to ameliorate future economic loss due to TBP or tropical theileriosis.

Keywords: Anaplasma; Apicomplexa; Breed resistance; Cattle; Microsatellites; Theileria annulata.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Buffaloes / parasitology*
  • Cattle / parasitology*
  • Disease Reservoirs / parasitology
  • Disease Reservoirs / veterinary
  • Genotype*
  • Host Specificity*
  • India / epidemiology
  • Theileria annulata / genetics*
  • Theileriasis / epidemiology
  • Theileriasis / parasitology*