The Rhipicephalus appendiculatus tick vector of Theileria parva is absent from cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) populations and associated ecosystems in northern Uganda

Rhipicephalus appendiculatus is the major tick vector of Theileria parva, an apicomplexan protozoan parasite that causes the most economically important and lethal disease of cattle in East and central Africa. The African cape buffalo (Syncerus caffer) is the major wildlife host of T. parva from southern Uganda and Kenya to southern Africa. We show herein that R. appendiculatus appears to be absent from the two largest national parks in northern Uganda. Syncerus caffer is common in both of these national parks, specifically Murchison falls (MFNP) and Kidepo Valley (KVNP). We re-confirmed the previously reported absence of T. parva in buffalo sampled in the two northern parks based on RLB data using a nested PCR based on the T. parva p104 gene. By contrast, T. parva-infected R. appendiculatus ticks and parasite-infected buffalo were present in Lake Mburo (LMNP) in South central Uganda. This suggests that the distribution of R. appendiculatus, which is predicted to include the higher rainfall regions of northern Uganda, may be limited by additional, as yet unknown factors.