Babesia divergens, a Bovine Blood Parasite of Veterinary and Zoonotic Importance
Babesia divergens is an intraerythrocytic protozoan parasite, transmitted by the tick Ixodes ricinus, and is the main agent of bovine babesiosis in Europe. It is not only a cause of significant loss to the cattle industry; it can also infect immunocompromised humans, causing medical emergencies characterized by rapid fulmination and parasitemias that may exceed 70%. The current emphasis in Europe on sustainable agriculture and extensification is likely to lead to an increase in vector tick populations with increased risk of infection. Despite the veterinary and zoonotic importance of this parasite, relatively little research has been carried out on B. divergens, and many questions regarding the parasite's epidemiology and the host's response remain unanswered. A better understanding of the species' biology and host-parasite interactions may lead to improved control mechanisms and new trends in vaccine and antibabesial drug development. This review provides the first comprehensive summary of B. divergens biology, including its morphology, life cycle, and host specificity, and the current state of knowledge of both human and bovine infections.