Background: Piroplasmosis, caused by Theileria and Babesia species, is an economically important tick-borne disease worldwide. However, little is known about the presence of Babesia spp. and Theileria spp. in ticks from different host species in Kazakhstan.
Method: We collected adult ticks at 26 sampling sites in 16 districts in the East and South regions of Kazakhstan during 2016 - 2019. Tick species were identified according to morphological and molecular characteristics. Two fragments of the 18S ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) were used to determine the species of piroplasms. The genotype characteristics of Babesia caballi and Theileria equi were analyzed further.
Results: A total of 6107 adult ticks were collected, including 2920 Dermacentor marginatus, 1442 Argas persicus, 903 Hyalomma asiaticum, 464 Hyalomma scupense, 225 Hyalomma anatolicum, 122 Rhipicephalus turanicus, 16 Haemaphysalis erinacei and 15 Dermacentor reticulatus. In these ticks five species of piroplasms, i.e. Babesia occultans, Babesia caballi, Theileria ovis, Theileria annulata and Theileria equi, were detected. Theileria equi and Babesia caballi belonged to their E and A genotype, respectively.
Conclusions: Apart from Dermacentor marginatus, three Hyalomma species predominate among ticks infesting herbivorous livestock in East and South regions of Kazakhstan. 16S ribosomal DNA (16S rDNA) phylogenic analysis showed that several tick species in Kazakhstan, as exemplified by D. marginatus and Ha. erinacei, were clustered together with conspecific ticks reported from China. Babesia occultans was found for the first time in D. marginatus in Kazakhstan. Altogether five piroplasm species were detected, indicating that enhanced control measures are necessary to prevent piroplasm infection of domestic animals in this region.