Tropical Animal Health and Production

, Volume 51, Issue 1, pp 89–98 | Cite as

A comprehensive evaluation and first molecular report of Theileria ovis infection in small ruminants in Saudi Arabia

  • Abdullah D. AlanaziEmail author
  • Ashraf E. Said
  • Ahmed M. Ghoneim
  • Mohamed S. Alyousif
  • Ibrahim O. Alanazi
Regular Articles


A total of 1000 clinically healthy small ruminants comprising 500 sheep and 500 goats from five districts within Riyadh Province in Saudi Arabia were investigated by routine Giemsa staining for hematozoan parasites. Out of these, 100 sheep and 95 goat samples were investigated by PCR using three pairs of hemoprotozoan-specific primers. Based on microscopic examination, 33.2% of sheep and 25.2% of goats were found infected with hemoprotozoan parasites, while PCR detected hematozoan infection in 46% of sheep and 33.7% of goats. Extensive molecular characterization of hematozoan infection using six pairs of species-specific primers revealed the dominance of Theileria ovis, rather than any other species, which is recorded for the first time in small ruminants in Saudi Arabia. Prevalence of T. ovis in sheep and goats was found to be the highest in Riyadh (32, 48%) followed by AL-Kharj (31, 35%), Ad-Dawadimi (31, 33%), AL-Majmaah (15, 27%), and Rumah (17, 23%). The highest parasite prevalence was recorded in the 3 years of age and > 4 years of age ruminants, while the lowest prevalence was recorded in < 1 year of age ruminants. No noticeable differences in parasite prevalence between male or female ruminants were recorded. Partial sequencing of 18S rRNA gene revealed the infection of the studied ruminants with four new isolates of T. ovis. Further characterization of the pathogenicity and the clinical effects of these T. ovis isolates in sheep and goats is highly needed. The current results can be helpful in protecting and improving livestock industry in the countries that depend on a high number of small ruminants.


Ticks Theileria ovis Sheep Goats PCR Saudi Arabia 



The authors would like to thank the staff members of the Biological Sciences Department, Faculty of Science and Humanities, Shaqra University, for their kind technical support.

Author contribution

ADA and MSA participated in the study design. ADA, IOA, and AES coordinated and collected tick and blood samples and performed DNA isolation. ADA, MSA, and IOA performed PCR. ADA, AMG, and MSA interpreted the PCR results. ADA and AES supervised molecular laboratory work. ADA and AMG wrote the manuscript. All authors read and approved the final manuscript.


This work was supported by King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology (KACST) [grant number: KACST LGP-36-29]. The funders had no role in study design, data collection, and analysis, interpretation of the data, or writing the manuscript.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no competing interest.

Supplementary material

11250_2018_1663_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.4 mb)
ESM 1 (PDF 1463 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science and HumanitiesShaqra UniversityAd-DawadimiSaudi Arabia
  2. 2.Department of Zoology, Faculty of ScienceDamietta UniversityNew DamiettaEgypt
  3. 3.Department of Zoology, College of ScienceKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia
  4. 4.The National Center for Genomic TechnologyKing Abdulaziz City for Science and TechnologyRiyadhSaudi Arabia

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