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Identification of Trypanosoma brucei gambiense in naturally infected dogs in Nigeria

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  • Paschal Ugochukwu Umeakuana
  • Wendy Gibson
  • Romanus Chukwuduruo Ezeokonkwo
  • Boniface Maduka Anene
Original languageEnglish
Article number420 (2019)
Number of pages7
JournalParasites and Vectors
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Aug 2019
DatePublished (current) - 27 Aug 2019


Animal trypanosomosis is endemic in Nigeria, while the human disease caused by Trypanosoma brucei gambiense is rarely reported nowadays after efforts to bring it under control in the 20th century. The University of Nigeria Veterinary Teaching Hospital (UNVTH) is a reference centre located within the Nsukka area and serves Enugu and neighboring states, Benue, Kogi, Anambra and Delta. Among dogs presented to the UNVTH with canine trypanosomosis, T. brucei is frequently reported as the causative agent. However, this is by morphological identification under the microscope, which does not allow distinction of human-infective (T. b. gambiense) and non-human-infective (T. b. brucei) subspecies. Here, we used subspecies-specific PCR tests to distinguish T. b. gambiense and T. b. brucei.

Blood samples were collected on FTA cards from 19 dogs presenting with clinical signs of trypanosomosis at the UNVTH from January 2017 to December 2018. All dogs had a patent parasitaemia. DNA was extracted from the FTA cards using Chelex 100 resin and used as template for PCR.

All infections were initially identified as belonging to subgenus Trypanozoon using a generic PCR test based on the internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) of the ribosomal RNA locus and a PCR test specific for the 177 bp satellite DNA of subgenus Trypanozoon. None of the samples were positive using a specific PCR test for T. evansi Type A kinetoplast DNA minicircles. Further PCR tests specific for T. b. gambiense based on the TgsGP and AnTat 11.17 genes revealed that two of the dogs harboured T. b. gambiense. In addition to trypanosomes of subgenus Trypanozoon, T. congolense savannah was identified in one dog using a species-specific PCR test for this taxon.

Nineteen dogs presenting with canine African trypanosomosis at UNVTH were infected with trypanosomes of the T. brucei group and in two cases the trypanosomes were further identified to subspecies T. b. gambiense using specific PCR tests. Thus T. b. gambiense is one of the parasites responsible for canine African trypanosomosis in the Nsukka area of Nigeria and represents a serious danger to human health.

    Research areas

  • AnTat 11.17, Canine trypanosomosis, Corneal opacity, Nigeria, Nsukka, TGSGP, Trypanosoma brucei brucei, Trypanosoma brucei gambiense, Trypanosoma congolense

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