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Evidence for transmission of the zoonotic apicomplexan parasite Babesia duncani by the tick Dermacentor albipictus.

Abstract

Babesiosis is a potentially fatal tick-borne zoonotic disease caused by a species complex of blood parasites that can infect a variety of vertebrates, particularly dogs, cattle, and humans. In the United States, human babesiosis is caused by two distinct parasites, Babesia microti and Babesia duncani. The enzootic cycle of B. microti, endemic in the northeastern and upper midwestern regions, has been well characterised. In the western United States, however, the natural reservoir host and tick vector have not been identified for B. duncani, greatly impeding efforts to understand and manage this zoonotic disease. Two and a half decades after B. duncani was first described in a human patient in Washington State, USA, we provide evidence that the enzootic tick vector is the winter tick, Dermacentor albipictus, and the reservoir host is likely the mule deer, Odocoileus hemionus. The broad, overlapping ranges of these two species covers a large portion of far-western North America, and is consistent with confirmed cases of B. duncani in the far-western United States.

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