Piroplasms, which include Babesia spp. and Theileria spp., are protozoan parasites carried by ticks and commonly cause disease in animals and humans. Those caused by Babesia spp. manifest as fever, anemia, and hemoglobinuria, while Theileria spp. can lead to high fever, diarrhea, and lymphadenopathy. Recently, Theileria capreoli and an undescribed Babesia sp. were detected for the first time in sika deer (Cervus nippon yesoensis) from Hokkaido; however, there is limited information available on their epidemiology in Japan. Here, a touchdown polymerase chain reaction and reverse line blot hybridization were used to perform an epidemiological survey of T. capreoli and Babesia sp. using blood samples from 82 sika deer in Hokkaido, Japan. This was followed by partial sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of the 18S rRNA and β-tubulin genes to characterize both piroplasm species. A total of 43 (52.4%) and 3 (3.7%) of the sika deer were positive for T. capreoli and Babesia sp., respectively. The β-tubulin gene partial sequences for Babesia sp. were distinct from those of Babesia spp. in GenBank. Phylogenetic analysis showed that the unknown Babesia sp. is more closely related to B. bigemina and B. ovata than other Babesia spp. based on the β-tubulin gene. Further studies are required to understand the ecology of these tick-borne pathogens in Japan.
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