Invasion, and short- and long-term survival of Babesia divergens (Phylum Apicomplexa) cultures in non-bovine sera and erythrocytes

A.  ZINTL  a1 c1 , C.  WESTBROOK  a1 , G.  MULCAHY  a1 , H. E.  SKERRETT  a1 and J. S.  GRAY  a2
a1 Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Parasitology and Conway Institute of Biomedical and Biomolecular Research, University College Dublin, Ireland
a2 Department of Environmental Resource Management, University College Dublin, Ireland

Article author query
zintl a   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
westbrook c   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
mulcahy g   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
skerrett h   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 
gray j   [PubMed][Google Scholar] 


In order to explore the feasibility of producing a Babesia divergens live vaccine free of bovine material contaminants the parasite's ability to grow in human, sheep and horse erythrocytes and serum and serum-free medium was investigated. B. divergens was successfully maintained in bovine erythrocytes overlaid with serum-free HL-1 medium. Supplementation of the culture medium with bovine or sheep serum improved parasite growth (monitored by measuring parasitaemia and uptake of tritiated hypoxanthine) whereas horse and human sera reduced parasite growth. As assessed by Giemsa's stained and FITC-labelled blood smears, the parasite invaded all erythrocyte types. Polyparasitism was less common in sheep and horse erythrocytes than in bovine and human erythrocytes. Accole stages were observed in bovine, human and sheep but not in horse erythrocytes. Proliferation following invasion was higher in human but lower in horse and sheep erythrocytes compared with bovine erythrocytes. Long-term cultures of B. divergens reached similar peak parasitaemias in human, sheep and bovine erythrocytes. Attempts to establish long-term cultures in horse erythrocytes failed. These results suggest that B. divergens is not host specific at the level of host cell attachment and invasion. Instead, parasite survival appears to be decided once the organism has gained access into the cell.

(Received October 24 2001)
(Revised January 11 2002)
(Accepted January 23 2002)

Key Words: Babesia divergens; in vitro culture; erythrocyte invasion; short-term survival; long-term survival.

c1 Corresponding author: Department of Veterinary Microbiology and Parasitology, University College Dublin, Ireland. Tel: +353 1 6687988 2596. Fax: +353 1 660 8656. E-mail: