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RECENT reports of autochthonous canine babesiosis in the UK (Cook and others 2016, Phipps and others 2016) suggest that Babesia canis may well become increasingly common in some parts of the country, possibly due to climatic changes that favour its vector (the tick Dermacentor reticulatus) and an increased frequency of international travel among companion animals. While diagnoses of babesiosis in Essex have garnered media attention in recent weeks, these events are of wider significance because they highlight the risk posed by the introduction of tickborne parasites, with at least one case of autochthonous canine ehrlichiosis diagnosed in south-east England (Tasker 2013, Wilson and others 2013), a previously reported autochthonous Babesia vogeli infection (Holm and others 2006) and unpublished reports of Babesia species in untravelled dogs identified via the Acarus Laboratory in Bristol.
While Babesia species are recognised pathogens in dogs, cats, humans and ungulates, the most clinically relevant species in dogs are Babesia canis (previously B canis canis), Babesia rossi (B canis rossi), Babesia vogeli (B canis vogeli) and Babesia gibsoni. The tick vectors for B canis and B vogeli (D reticulatus and Rhipicephalus sanguineus) have both been documented in the UK (Smith and others 2011, HPA Tick Recording Scheme [HPA 2013], National Biodiversity Network Gateway 2016); whereas, to the authors' knowledge, those for B rossi and B gibsoni (Haemaphysalis elliptica, Haemaphysalis bispinosa and Haemaphysalis longicornis) have not. D reticulatus is established predominantly in Wales, the south-west and the south-east of England, a distribution that may broaden with time. However, R sanguineus has thus far only been found associated with imported dogs, but has been known to overwinter (Hansford and others 2015).
Dogs returning from endemic areas have the potential to carry any of the species and/or vectors described, especially now that acaricidal treatment before re-entry to the …