Scientists found B. venatorum parasite DNA in a large number of sheep blood samples, which were not showing any disease signs

An exotic tick-borne parasite has been detected within sheep in northern Scotland, a new study reveals.

The study, published today in the journal of the Centre for Disease Control, reports that this is the first time this organism, called Babesia venatorum (B. venatorum), has been identified in animals in the UK, and the first time it has been found in sheep anywhere in the world.

The researchers from the University of Glasgow’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Institute of Biodiversity, Animal Health and Comparative Medicine collected blood from sheep, cattle and deer in Scotland’s northeastern areas, where tick-borne diseases have previously detected.

They found B. venatorum parasite DNA in a large number of sheep blood samples, which were not showing any disease signs.

The identification of this parasite in the country raises concerns for European public health and farming policy, the scientists warn.

However, the risk of people contracting this infection is believed to be low.

“The presence of B. venatorum in the UK represents a new risk to humans working, living, or hiking in areas with infected ticks and livestock, particularly sheep. Although we believe the threat to humans to be low, nevertheless local health and veterinary professionals will need to be aware of the disease if the health risk from the tick-borne disease in the UK is to be fully understood,” said Dr Willie Weir, Senior University Clinician in Veterinary Pathology, Public Health and Disease Investigation.

Last month, Public Health England has warned of a deadly tick-borne encephalitis virus which often causes serious disease involving the central nervous system.

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