Malignant ovine theileriosis is a severe tick-borne protozoan disease of sheep and other small ruminants which is widespread in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East. The disease is of considerable economic importance in Sudan as the export of livestock provides a major contribution to the gross domestic product of this country. Molecular surveys have demonstrated a high prevalence of sub-clinical infections of Theileria lestoquardi, the causative agent, among small ruminants. No information is currently available on the extent of genetic diversity and genetic exchange among parasites in different areas of the country. The present study used a panel of T. lestoquardi specific micro- and mini-satellite genetic markers to assess diversity of parasites in Sudan (Africa) and compared it to that of the parasite population in Oman (Asia). A moderate level of genetic diversity was observed among parasites in Sudan, similar to that previously documented among parasites in Oman. However, a higher level of mixed-genotype infection was identified in Sudanese animals compared to Omani animals, consistent with a higher rate of tick transmission. In addition, the T. lestoquardi genotypes detected in these two countries form genetically distinct groups. The results of this work highlight the need for analysis of T. lestoquardi populations in other endemic areas in the region to inform on novel approaches for controlling malignant theileriosis.
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