Transplacental transmission of tick-borne Babesia microti in its natural host Peromyscus leucopus

Tufts, Danielle M.; Diuk-Wasser, Maria A.

Babesia microti is an emerging tick-borne pathogen and the causative agent of human babesiosis. Mathematical modeling of the reproductive rate of B. microti indicates that it cannot persist in nature by horizontal tick-host transmission alone. We hypothesized that transplacental transmission in the reservoir population contributes to B. microti persistence and emergence in North American rodent populations.

Peromyscus leucopus were collected from Connecticut and Block Island, Rhode Island and analyzed using a highly specific quantitative PCR (qPCR) assay for infection with B. microti.

In April, 100% (n = 103) of mice were infected with B. microti. Females exhibited significantly higher parasitemia than their offspring (P < 0.0001) and transplacental transmission was observed in 74.2% of embryos (n = 89). Transplacental transmission of B. microti is thus a viable and potentially important infectious pathway in naturally infected rodent species and should be considered in future theoretical and empirical studies.

To our knowledge, this study is the first to report transplacental transmission of B. microti occurring in its natural reservoir host, P. leucopus, in the United States and the only study that provides a quantitative estimate of parasitemia. This vector-independent pathway could contribute to the increased geographic range of B. microti or increase its abundance in endemic areas.


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Also Published In

Parasites & Vectors

More About This Work

Academic Units
Ecology, Evolution, and Environmental Biology
Published Here
August 20, 2018


Ixodes scapularis
, Rodent, Babesiosis, Emerging disease, Congenital transmission