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Abstract

Effect of parasite dose and host age on the infection with Besnoitia besnoiti tachyzoites in cattle.

Abstract

Bovine besnoitiosis is continuing to spread in Europe. Therefore, the development of ruminant animal models of infection is urgently needed to evaluate therapeutic and prophylactic tools. Herein, we studied the effect of parasite dose and host age on the infection dynamics with Besnoitia besnoiti tachyzoites in cattle in two independent experimental infections. In experiment A, twelve 3-month-old male calves were inoculated intravenously with either three different doses of tachyzoites (G1: 108; G2: 107; G3: 106) or with PBS (G4). In experiment B, six 14-month-old bulls were inoculated with 106 tachyzoites based on results obtained in experiment A. In both trials, clinical signs compatible with acute and chronic besnoitiosis were monitored daily; blood and skin samples were collected regularly for 70-115 days post-infection (pi). Finally, animals were killed, and tissues were collected for lesion and parasite detections. Infected animals developed mild-moderate signs compatible with acute besnoitiosis. Lymphadenopathy and fever were observed in both calves (from 12 hr until 7 days pi) and bulls (from 6 days until 9 days pi). Seroconversion was detected at 16-19 days pi, and antibody levels remained high. Infected animals did not developed characteristic clinical signs and macroscopic lesions of chronic besnoitiosis. However, successfully, parasite-DNA was detected in a reduced number of target tissues: conjunctiva, ocular sclera, epididymis, skin of the scrotum and carpus in calves (n=10, 6 of which belonged to G3), and pampiniform plexus and testicular parenchyma in bulls. Remarkably, one tissue cyst and mild microscopic lesions were also detected. In summary, inoculated animals developed the acute besnoitiosis and chronic infection was evidenced by microscopic findings. However, our results suggest that tachyzoite dose and host age are not key variables for inducing clinical signs and macroscopic lesions characteristic of chronic besnoitiosis. Thus, a further refinement of this model should evaluate other parasite- and host-dependent variables.