Emergence of Babesia canis in southern England

Maria del Mar Fernández De Marco, Luis M. Hernández-Triana, L. Paul Phipps, Kayleigh Hansford, E. Sian Mitchell, Benjamin Cull, Clive S. Swainsbury, Anthony R. Fooks, Jolyon Medlock, Nicholas Johnson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The United Kingdom is considered free of autochthonous transmission of canine babesiosis although cases are reported in dogs associated with recent travel abroad. During the winter months of 2015/16, a cluster of cases of disease in dogs with signs suggestive of canine babesiosis were reported in Harlow, Essex. Methods: Babesia species were detected in dog blood samples by Giemsa staining of blood smears and by pan-piroplasm PCRs. Babesia species were also detected in extracts of tick DNA using pan-piroplasm PCRs. DNA sequencing and phylogenetic analysis was used to confirm the species of Babesia present in dog blood and tick samples. Tick species were identified by PCR-sequencing based on amplification of the cytochrome c oxidase subunit one (cox1) gene. Dermacentor reticulatus ticks were sampled from field sites in England and Wales. Results: Blood smear analysis on samples taken from some of the affected dogs confirmed the presence of a large Babesia species within erythrocytes. A tick recovered from one of these cases was identified as Dermacentor reticulatus, a species with a limited distribution in England and Wales, but a known vector of canine babesiosis in continental Europe. Babesia canis was subsequently identified in blood samples obtained from three clinical cases (all dogs) within the area and from ticks associated with these dogs. A field survey detected 17 adult D. reticulatus ticks from one area visited by the affected dogs. Fourteen of these ticks were shown to be positive for the B. canis parasite, implicating them as a potential source for babesiosis in Harlow. In order to assess whether the parasite is present in more than one tick population, D. reticulatus ticks from across England and Wales were screened for the presence of Babesia species. In addition to the Harlow site, a further five locations where D. reticulatus is present were screened for Babesia species. Babesia was not detected from most sites tested but one tick from a single location in Wales was positive for B. canis. Conclusions: Infection with B. canis was confirmed in a number of dogs in Harlow, Essex, with no history of travel outside of the country. The same pathogen was identified in field-caught D. reticulatus ticks in the same area and is considered the likely source of infection. This highlights the need for vigilance by veterinary surgeons for future outbreaks of tick-borne disease in dogs.

Original languageEnglish
Article number241
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 17 May 2017

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


  • Babesia canis
  • Canine babesiosis
  • Dermacentor reticulatus


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