We previously reported that small wild rodents in Japan harbor two types of novel Babesia microti-like parasites (designated as Hobetsu and Kobe types), but not the type commonly found in the northeastern United States (U.S. type) where human babesiosis is endemic. To determine whether these new types of parasites are distributed in places surrounding Japan, an epizootiologic survey was undertaken in three geographically distant areas in northeastern Eurasia; South Korea, Vladivostok in Russia, and Xinjiang in China. Blood samples were collected from a total of 387 animals comprising 24 species. DNAs extracted from the samples were tested by nested PCR targeting babesial nuclear small-subunit rRNA gene (rDNA), which revealed that small rodents harboring B. microti exist in all three survey areas. Sequence analysis showed that all PCR-positive samples had rDNA sequences virtually identical to that of U.S.-type B. microti. However, when β-tubulin gene sequences were compared, evident geographic variations were seen. By use of primers specific for each of the β-tubulin genes of Kobe-, Hobetsu-, and U.S.-type parasites, a type-specific PCR was developed. Parasite with Hobetsu- or Kobe-type sequence was not detected from any of the three survey areas. These findings suggest that U.S.-type B. microti is widely distributed among small wild mammals in temperate zones of not only North America, but also Eurasia, whereas that Hobetsu- and Kobe-type parasites may be uniquely distributed in Japan.
2004 by the Japanese Society of Veterinary Science