ABSTRACT

Equine piroplasmosis stands out among the diseases that affect Equidae in Brazil and the world. It is caused by the protozoa Theileria equi and Babesia caballi. The objective of the present study was to carry out the molecular characterization of T. equi using equine blood samples collected in the 5 geographic regions of Brazil. Samples from all over the country were tested for the presence of T. equi by real-time PCR. The 18S rRNA sequences (∼1,600 bp) obtained from 23 samples taken from naturally infected horses were characterized by sequencing and analyzed to identify the genotypes and the possible sites of genetic variability. Thirteen different T. equi 18S rRNA sequences were identified, and 2 different genotypes were demonstrated to be in circulation in Brazil. Alignment entropy analysis demonstrated the existence of three hypervariable regions (V2, V4, and V8) within the 18S rRNA sequence of T. equi. The V2 region is located between nucleotides 63 and 75, V4 is located between nucleotides 524 and 586, and V8 is located between nucleotides 1,208 and 1,226. The hypervariable region V4 demonstrated the greatest variation within the 18S rRNA sequence of T. equi. Phylogenetic analysis based on the 18S rRNA sequences revealed the formation of 3 distinct clades (A, B, and C). The Brazilian samples belonged to 2 clades (A and C). The present study describes the characterization and heterogeneity of the circulating T. equi 18S rRNA sequences in Brazil. The results confirm that the country is an endemic area for the disease, and they indicate that at least 2 distinct T. equi genotypes are naturally infecting equines in Brazil.

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