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Impact of Babesia microti infection on the initiation and course of pregnancy in BALB/c mice

Tołkacz, Katarzyna and Rodo, Anna and Wdowiarska, Agnieszka and Bajer, Anna and Bednarska, Małgorzata (2021) Impact of Babesia microti infection on the initiation and course of pregnancy in BALB/c mice. Parasites & Vectors, 14 (132). pp. 1-17. ISSN 1756-3305

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Official URL: https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-021-04638-0


Background Protozoa in the genus Babesia are transmitted to humans through tick bites and cause babesiosis, a malaria-like illness. Vertical transmission of Babesia spp. has been reported in mammals; however, the exact timing and mechanisms involved are not currently known. The aims of this study were to evaluate the success of vertical transmission of B. microti in female mice infected before pregnancy (mated during the acute or chronic phases of Babesia infection) and that of pregnant mice infected during early and advanced pregnancy; to evaluate the possible influence of pregnancy on the course of parasite infections (parasitaemia); and to assess pathological changes induced by parasitic infection. Methods The first set of experiments involved two groups of female mice infected with B. microti before mating, and inseminated on the 7th day and after the 40th day post infection. A second set of experiments involved female mice infected with B. microti during pregnancy, on the 4th and 12th days of pregnancy. Blood smears and PCR targeting the 559 bp 18S rRNA gene fragment were used for the detection of B. microti. Pathology was assessed histologically. Results Successful development of pregnancy was recorded only in females mated during the chronic phase of infection. The success of vertical transmission of B. microti in this group was 63%. No evidence of pregnancy was found in females mated during the acute phase of infection or on the 4th day of pregnancy. In the group infected on the 12th day of pregnancy, numerous complications including loss of pregnancy and stillbirths were recorded. During the acute phase of infection, parasitaemia was lower in pregnant females in comparison to infected, non-pregnant control females. Conclusions Acute B. microti infection prevents the initiation of pregnancy and embryonic development if it occurs during the first trimester, and causes severe complications in foetal BALB/c mice in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Chronic B. microti infection has no detrimental impact on the initiation and development of pregnancy, but results in congenital infection of the offspring. Further study is required to determine the extent to which maternal anti-babesial immune responses contribute to compromise pregnancy in the murine model of congenital Babesia infection.

Item Type:Article
Uncontrolled Keywords:Babesia microti, vertical transmission, tick-borne disease, congenital infection, pregnancy
Subjects:Q Science > QL Zoology
Divisions:Department of Antarctic Biology
ID Code:2001
Deposited By: Katarzyna Tołkacz
Deposited On:16 Mar 2021 09:58
Last Modified:16 Mar 2021 09:58

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