Prevalence of Trypanosoma evansi in livestock in Palestine
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Background: Trypanosoma evansi is the causative agent of surra, a disease that occurs in many animal species. The disease is responsible for substantial losses in global production and can be fatal if not diagnosed early. This study aims to determine the prevalence of T. evansi in livestock, equids and dromedary camels in Palestine. Methods: Blood samples were collected during 2015–2017 from domesticated animals (n = 259 animals; 77% females and 23% males) including camels (n = 87), horses (n = 46), donkeys (n = 28), mules (n = 2), sheep (n = 49) and goats (n = 48) from eight districts: Ariha (Jericho), Nablus, Bethlehem, Deir Al Balah, Jenin, Rafah, Tubas, and Khan Yunis. Parasite prevalence was determined using PCR and blood smear microscopy. PCR-positive samples were further phylogenetically analyzed using DNA sequences of the 18S ribosomal RNA gene. Results: The overall infection prevalence was 18% (46/259). The positivity rates according to PCR and microscopy examination were 17% (45/259) and 2.7% (7/259), respectively. The infection rates were as follows: camels, 26/61 (30%); horses, 8/46 (17%); donkeys, 3/28 (11%); mules, 1/2 (50%); sheep, 2/42 (4%); and goats, 6/42 (13%). Phylogenetic analyses of the 18S rRNA gene showed that 24 positive T. evansi samples from Palestine formed a monophyletic cluster with seven T. evansi sequences from Africa, Asia and South America, and three T. brucei sequences from Africa retrieved from GenBank. The spatial analysis showed three statistically significant foci of T. evansi infection in Jenin, Tubas (P = 0.02) and Ariha (Jericho) (P = 0.04). No statistically significant foci were detected in the Gaza Strip. Conclusions: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first confirmation of high levels of infection with T. evansi as a causative agent of surra in Palestine. Our study emphasizes the need for a stringent surveillance system and risk assessment studies as prerequisites for control measures. Further investigations focusing on vectors and evaluation of risk factors are needed.