Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Haemoparasites of free-roaming dogs associated with several remote Aboriginal communities in Australia

Emily N Barker1*, Debra A Langton1, Chris R Helps2, Graeme Brown3, Richard Malik4, Susan E Shaw1 and Séverine Tasker1

Author affiliations

1 School of Veterinary Sciences, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK

2 Langford Veterinary Services, University of Bristol, Langford, Bristol BS40 5DU, UK

3 Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Sydney,, B14, NSW, Sydney 2006, Australia

4 Centre for Veterinary Education, University of Sydney, Sydney, B22, NSW 2006, Australia

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Citation and License

BMC Veterinary Research 2012, 8:55  doi:10.1186/1746-6148-8-55

Published: 14 May 2012



Tick-borne haemoparasites Babesia vogeli and Anaplasma platys are common among the free-roaming canine populations associated with Aboriginal communities in Australia, whilst the prevalence of haemoplasmas, which are also suspected to be tick-borne, remained unexplored. The aim of this study was to determine the prevalence of haemoplasma infection in these populations, and to identify any correlation with other haemoparasites. Blood was collected from 39 dogs associated with four Aboriginal communities and screened for infection using PCR and serology. DNA was purified and PCR analyses for piroplasms, Anaplasmataceae family bacteria and haemoplasmas performed. Serum was analysed using a commercial haemoparasite ELISA. Prevalence of infection was compared between communities.


Seventeen dogs (44%) were infected (PCR positive) with Mycoplasma haemocanis, eight (21%) with ‘Candidatus Mycoplasma haematoparvum’, 20 (51%) with A. platys, and 17 (44%) with B. vogeli. Two dogs were infected with a novel haemoplasma as determined by DNA amplification and sequencing. Two dogs (5%) were serologically positive for Dirofilaria immitis antigens, one (3%) was positive for Ehrlichia canis antibodies and nine (24nbsp;%) were positive for A. platys antibodies. Co-infections were frequent. Haemoplasma prevalence was highest (73%, 16/22) in Central Australia and lowest (22%, 2/9) in Western Australia (p = 0.017). In contrast, B. vogeli prevalence was low in Central Australia (18%, 4/22) but higher (78%, 7/9) in Western Australia (p = 0.003).


This is the first time haemoplasma infections, including a novel species, have been molecularly documented in Australian dogs. The wide regional variation in prevalence of some of the haemoparasite infections detected in this study warrants further investigation.