In order to investigate the transmission dynamics of Theileria parva (T. parva) by the brown ear tick, Rhipicephalus appendiculatus (R. appendiculatus), under experimental conditions, detection of T. parva in ticks and cattle was performed by a quantitative real-time PCR assay. A calf inoculated with a T. parva mixture became PCR-positive for T. parva infection on day 8 post-inoculation, and subsequently, nymphal ticks were introduced and maintained to feed on the infected calf for 6 days. Engorged nymphs were collected daily and allowed to molt into adults, and overall, 70.8% (121/171) of the adult ticks acquired the T. parva infection. Furthermore, the T. parva infection rate in ticks under field conditions was monitored by real-time PCR in R. appendiculatus ticks collected from a traditionally managed pastoral land of Zambia, on which Sanga breed cattle are traditionally reared and the area has endemic East Coast fever (ECF). A total of 70 cattle were randomly selected in the same area and 67 (95.7%) were found to be serologically positive for R. appendiculatus tick antigen (RIM36). Twenty-nine (43.3%) of the 67 serologically positive cattle were real-time PCR-positive for T. parva, although no piroplasms could be detected in the blood smears. Unexpectedly, out of 614 R. appendiculatus nymphal and adult ticks collected by flagging vegetation, 4.1% were positive for T. parva DNA. However, since the rate of transmission of T. parva from infected cattle to ticks and vice versa and the serological evidence of exposure to R. appendiculatus ticks in naturally exposed cattle were relatively high, it would be wise in such a case to consider vector control as well as vaccination against ECF as control measures.
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