First Molecular Identification and Genetic Characterization of Theileria lestoquardi in Sheep of the Maghreb Region
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Theileria lestoquardi is the most prominent Theileria species in small ruminants that causes malignant theileriosis of sheep in Africa and Asia. In the present survey, blood samples and ticks were collected in Kebili (southern Tunisia) from 166 Queue Fine de l’Ouest sheep. Giemsa-stained blood smears, immunofluorescent antibody test (IFAT) and PCR were performed. The DNA was extracted from blood and analysed by PCR targeting 18S rRNA gene of Theileria spp. and then sequenced. A total number of 140 ticks were collected from a total number of 166 sheep during the four seasons. The ticks belonged to two genera and 4 species; the most frequent tick was Hyalomma excavatum 84.3% (118/140) and then Rhipicephalus spp. 15.7% (22/140). Only two animals had positive Giemsa-stained blood smears, and they were also positive by IFAT. The amplicons had 99.3 and 99.6% homology with the BLAST published T. lestoquardi amplicons. To our knowledge, this is the first report of T. lestoquardi in small ruminants within the Maghreb region.