Heartwater is a challenging disease even amongst well-studied domestic species, and there continues to be poor comprehension of the syndrome in wildlife species, especially with regards to “heartwater springbuck” which are regularly traded in the private wildlife industry, primarily due to a plethora of opinion and a paucity of science. Before investing in such animals it is worthwhile considering the ecology of the disease.
Heartwater is a vector-borne infectious disease of ruminants. For the disease to exist in a certain area, it requires 3 factors to occur together (like a 3-legged table):
- Erlichia ruminantium (the intracellular rickettsia organism that is the agent of the disease)
- Amblyomma hebraeum (the tick vector in South Africa that transmits the agent between susceptible hosts)
- A suitable ruminant host that allows the agent to multiply (e.g. cow, goat, springbuck)
Amblyomma hebraeum ticks can take from 5 months to 4 years to complete their life-cycle and are robust vectors- the tick can remain infected with E. ruminantium for at least 15 months.
Click here to read the full article.