Widespread co-endemicity of Trypanosoma species infecting cattle in the Sudano-Sahelian and Guinea Savannah zones of Cameroon
Background: African animal trypanosomosis remains the major constraint of livestock production and livelihood of pastoral communities in Cameroon. Despite several decades of vector and parasite control efforts, it has not been eradicated. Alternative and sustainable control strategies require a sound knowledge of the local species, strains and vectors. In the Sudano-Sahelian and Guinea Savannah of Cameroon the prevalence and genetic diversity of trypanosomes infecting cattle was investigated by microscopy of cattle blood buffy coat and molecular methods using generic primers targeting parts of the internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS-1) and encoded glycosomal glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase-gene (gGAPDH). Results: A total of 1176 randomly chosen cattle from five divisions in the Sudano-Sahelian and Guinea Savannah of Cameroon were examined. The overall prevalence of trypanosomes by microscopy was 5.9% (56/953) in contrast to 53.2% (626/1176) when molecular tools were used. This indicated a limited sensitivity of microscopy in subclinical infections with frequently low parasitemia. Three trypanosome species were identified by light microscopy: T. vivax (2.3%), T. brucei (3.7%) and T. congolense (3.0%), whereas five were identified by PCR, namely T. grayi/T. theileri (30.8%), T. vivax (17.7%), T. brucei (14.5%) and T. congolense (5.1%). Unexpected cases of T. grayi (n = 4) and T. theileri (n = 26) were confirmed by sequencing. Phylogenetic analysis of the gGAPDH revealed the presence of T. vivax, clade A and T. vivax clade C, which were co-endemic in the Faro et Deo division. T. grayi/T. theileri were the predominant species infecting cattle in tsetse free areas. In contrast, T. vivax, T. brucei and T. congolense were more abundant in areas where the Glossina-vectors were present. Conclusions: The abundance of pathogenic trypanosomes in tsetse infested areas is alarming and even more, the occurrence of T. vivax, T. brucei, T. congolense, T. theileri and T. grayi in tsetse-free areas implies that tsetse control alone is not sufficient to control trypanosomosis in livestock. To implement control measures that reduce the risk of spread in tsetse free areas, close monitoring using molecular tools and a thorough search for alternative vectors of trypanosomes is recommended.