Equine Piroplasmosis

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Abstract

Equine piroplasmosis (EP) is a tick-borne protozoal disease of horses, mules, donkeys, and zebras that is characterized by acute hemolytic anemia. The etiologic agents are two hemoprotozoan parasites, Theileria equi (Laveran, 1901) and Babesia caballi (Nutall and Strickland, 1910) that are transmitted primarily by ixodid ticks. Equine piroplasmosis is found globally where tick vectors are present and is endemic in tropical, subtropical, and some temperate regions. Horses infected with B. equi remain seropositive for life; horses infected with B. caballi are seropositive for several years to life. Economic losses associated with EP are significant and include the cost of treatment, especially in acutely infected horses; abortions; loss of performance; death; and restrictions in meeting international requirements related to exportation or participation in equestrian sporting events. Equine babesiosis–free countries limit the entrance of Babesia-seropositive horses into their countries. In the United States a few sporadic outbreaks have occurred in recent years but have been limited due to implementation of stringent control methods. The cELISA for both T. equi and B. caballi is currently the recommended test for international horse transport. Different therapies for control and sterilization of the parasites are discussed.

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