Babesia bigemina

Members of the genus Babesia are Apicomplexan parasites commonly referred to as the 'piroplasms'. They have a two-host life-cycle involving a tick and a mammal. In the mammalian host the organisms reproduces asexually. Out of at least six Babesia species that have a considerable impact on livestock health and productivity, two species, Babesia bovis and Babesia bigemini have the greatest affect. Both are transmitted by Boophilus species as tick vectors. Tick-fever or cattle-fever (bovine babesiosis) is economically the most important tick-borne disease of cattle worldwide. Many hundreds of millions of cattle worldwide are at risk from these organisms.

B. bigemina is distributed wherever Boophilus ticks are encountered, which includes North and South America, Southern Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. In cattle disease caused by B. bigemina is also known as 'Texas cattle fever' or 'red-water fever'.

B. bigemina is a large Babesia species that is pleomorphic but often occur in pairs within the infected red blood cells, hence the name 'bigemina'. In cattle, the parasite can cause massive destruction of the red blood cells leading to severe anaemia and hemoglobinuria. This result in red urine (due to haemoglobin in urine) and the disease can kill a cow within a week. In susceptible British-bred cattle (Bos taurus), high levels of mortality can occur on first exposure.

This is a Wellcome Trust-funded project to sequence the genome of an established virulent Australian isolate of B. bigemina obtained from The Tick Fever Research Centre of The Queensland Department of Primary Industries. The nuclear genome of B. bigemina is estimated to be 10 Mb in size, distributed over 4 chromosomes, and a whole genome shotgun sequencing approach (to 8-fold coverage) is being used, followed by assembly and finishing.

This project is a collaboration with Drs Peter Willadsen and Louise Jackson of CSIRO Livestock Industries, Australia.

It is hoped that comparisons between these sequence data and those of the related species Babesia bovis will provide insights into pathogenicity in bovine babesiosis. The Babesia bovis genome is currently being sequenced at The Institute for Genomic Research in collaboration with Washington State University.

Data downloads

Data Use Statement

This sequencing centre plans on publishing the completed and annotated sequences in a peer-reviewed journal as soon as possible. Permission of the principal investigator should be obtained before publishing analyses of the sequence/open reading frames/genes on a chromosome or genome scale. See our data sharing policy.

Sequencing enquiries

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