An intraerythrocytic protozoan (WA1) recently isolated from a patient in Washington State was shown to be morphologically identical to Babesia microti but biologically and genetically distinct. Continuous growth of WA1 was established in stationary erythrocyte cultures. Hybridization of a chemiluminescent Babesia-specific DNA probe to Southern blots of restriction enzyme-digested genomic DNA showed that WA1 could be distinguished from other Babesia species that were antigenically cross-reactive (Babesia gibsoni and babesial parasites from desert bighorn sheep, Ovis canadensis nelsoni) or known to infect humans (B. microti, Babesia divergens, and Babesia equi), or both. A 1436-bp portion of the nuclear small subunit rRNA gene of WA1 was sequenced and analyzed. Genetic distance analysis showed that WA1 is most closely related to the canine pathogen B. gibsoni and lies within a phylogenetic cluster with Theileria species and B. equi. The methodology described will be useful for improved diagnosis and identification of human protozoal pathogens.
The Journal of Infectious Diseases
J Infect Dis. 1994 May;169(5):1050-6