The sika deer (Cervus nippon) is a first-grade state-protected animal in China and designated a threatened species by the World Conservation Union. To detect hemoparasite infection of sika deer, blood samples were collected from 24 animals in the Hubei Province Deer Center. Genomic DNA was extracted, and the V4 hypervariable region encoding 18S rRNA was analyzed by reverse line blot hybridization assay. PCR products hybridized with Babesia/Theileria genus-specific probes but failed to hybridize with any of the Babesia or Theileria species-specific probes, suggesting the presence of a novel, or variant, species. Here 18S rRNA and internal transcribed spacer (ITS) genes were amplified, cloned, and sequenced from 7 isolates. Alignment and BlastN of the cloned sequences revealed high similarities to the homologous 18S rRNA genes and ITS genes of Theileria cervi (AY735122), Theileria sp. CNY1A (AB012194), and Theileria sp. ex Yamaguchi (AF529272). Phylogenetic analysis based on the 18S rRNA gene and ITS sequences showed that all cloned sequences were grouped within the Theileria clade. Phylogeny based on the 18S rRNA gene divided the organisms into 2 groups. Group 1 was closest to Theileria sp. ex Yamaguchi (AF529272), and group 2 was distinct from all other identified Theileria and Babesia species. These results suggest the existence of Theileria sp. infection in sika deer in China. To our knowledge, this is the first report of cervine Theileria sp. in China.

You do not currently have access to this content.