28 oct 2022 - 10:04 CET
David González-Barrio, Carlos Diezma-Diaz, Joao Queirós, Paulo C. Alves, Roser Velarde, Josep Estruch, Madalena Vieira-Pinto, Gema Álvarez-García
Besnoitia besnoiti is an apicomplexan parasite whose life cycle is not completely understood. It is assumed that this parasite might have an indirect life cycle with a carnivore as a definitive host able to shed oocysts after the ingestion of mature cysts in tissues of an infected intermediate host. Cattle and wild cervids on the Iberian Peninsula can act as intermediate hosts of B. besnoiti, and exposure to the parasite has been demonstrated in equids. In this study, we aimed to assess the presence of members of the genera Besnoitia in wild lagomorphs from the Iberian Peninsula and the potential role of these host species in the life cycle of B. besnoiti, as all the animals were sampled from 19 regions of the Iberian Peninsula where cases of bovine besnoitiosis have been previously detected. Serum samples (Oryctolagus cuniculus: n = 552; Lepus europaeus: n = 122) were first analysed by ELISA and subsequently confirmed by Western blot (WB). Specific antibodies against B. besnoiti were not found in any sampled animal by WB. In addition, lung samples from a subset of wild rabbits (n = 16) were tested by PCR and Besnoitia spp. DNA was not detected. These results suggest that Besnoitia spp. are unlikely to circulate in wild lagomorphs in the Iberian Peninsula. Thus, lagomorphs are not expected to play a key role in the biological cycle of B. besnoiti. Further studies are necessary to assess whether different micromammal species, such as rodents, can serve as natural reservoirs of Besnoitia spp. in other European regions.