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In an interconnected world, the international pet trade on wild animals is becoming increasingly important. As a consequence, non-native parasite species are introduced, which affect the health of wildlife and contribute to the loss of biodiversity. Because the investigation of parasite diversity within vulnerable host species implies the molecular identification of large samples of parasite eggs, the sequencing of DNA barcodes is time-consuming and costly. Thereby, the objectives of our study were to apply the high resolution melting (HRM) approach for species determination from pools of parasite eggs. Molecular assays were validated on flatworm parasites (polystomes) infecting the Mediterranean pond turtle Mauremys leprosa and the invasive red-eared slider Trachemys scripta elegans in French natural environments. HRM analysis results indicated that double or multiple parasitic infections could be detected from wild animal populations. They also showed that the cycle of parasite eggs production was not regular over time and may depend on several factors, among which the ecological niche and the target species. Thereby, monitoring parasites from wild endangered animals implies periodic parasitological surveys to avoid false negative diagnostics, based solely on eggs production.
Cyclin-dependent kinases (CDKs) have important roles in regulating key checkpoints between stages of the cell cycle. Their activity is tightly regulated through a variety of mechanisms, including through binding with cyclin proteins and the Cdc2/Cdc28 kinase subunit (CKS), and their phosphorylation at specific amino acids. Studies of the components involved in cell cycle control in parasitic protozoa are limited. Trichomonas vaginalis is the causative agent of trichomoniasis in humans and is therefore important in public health; however, some of the basic biological processes used by this organism have not been defined. Here, we characterized proteins potentially involved in cell cycle regulation in T. vaginalis. Three genes encoding protein kinases were identified in the T. vaginalis genome, and the corresponding recombinant proteins (TvCRK1, TvCRK2, TvCRK5) were studied. These proteins displayed similar sequence features to CDKs. Two genes encoding CKSs were also identified, and the corresponding recombinant proteins were found to interact with TvCRK1 and TvCRK2 by a yeast two-hybrid system. One putative cyclin B protein from T. vaginalis was found to bind to and activate the kinase activities of TvCRK1 and TvCRK5, but not TvCRK2. This work is the first characterization of proteins involved in cell cycle control in T. vaginalis.
Plant cysteine proteinases (CPs) from Carica papaya kill parasitic and free-living nematodes in vitro by hydrolysis of the worm cuticle, a mechanism that is different to all commercially available synthetic anthelmintics. We have developed a cheap and effective, rapid-throughput Caenorhabditis elegans-based assay for screening plant CP extracts for anthelmintic activity targeting cuticular integrity. The assay exploits colorimetric methodology for assessment of cuticular damage, and is based on the ability of viable cells to incorporate and bind Neutral red dye within lysosomes and to release the dye when damaged. Living worms are pre-stained with the dye, exposed to CPs and then leakage of the dye through the damaged cuticle is quantified by spectrophotometry. In contrast to motility assays and semi-subjective interpretation of microscopical images, this colorimetric assay is independent of observer bias. Our assay was applied to a series of C. elegans bus mutant strains with leaky cuticles and to cystatin knockout mutants. At ambient temperature and over 0.5–24 h, both bus mutants and the cystatin knockouts were highly susceptible to CPs, whereas wild-type Bristol N2 worms were essentially unstained by Neutral red and unaffected by CPs, providing validation for the utility of this assay.
The sequences of four mitochondrial genes were determined for Demodex mites isolated from two distantly related species within the family Cervidae, and identified morphologically as belonging to the species Demodex kutzeri. The sequences were used to test the hypothesis that Demodex are strictly host-specific, and hence cospeciate with their hosts: (1) The estimated divergence time between mites found on elk vs humans agreed closely with a previous estimate of the time that these host species last shared a common ancestor, suggesting cospeciation of mites and hosts, at least over long evolutionary timescales. (2) The extremely low levels of sequence divergence between the mites found on elk vs mule deer hosts indicated that these mites belong to the same species, which suggests that Demodex are able to move across host species boundaries over shorter timescales. Together, the results are consistent with the model that Demodex mites are not strict host-specialists, but instead lose the ability to move between host lineages gradually.
Human and animal nanophyetiasis is caused by intestinal flukes belonging to the genus Nanophyetus distributed on both North American and Eurasian coasts of Northern Pacific. In spite of the wide geographical distribution and medical and veterinary importance of these flukes, the intra-generic taxonomy of Nanophyetus spp. remains unresolved. The two most widely distributed nominal species, Nanophyetus salmincola and Nanophyetus schikhobalowi, both parasitizing humans and carnivorous mammals, were described from North America and eastern Eurasia, respectively. However, due to their high morphological similarity their interrelationships remained unclear and taxonomic status unstable. In this study, we explored genetic diversity of Nanophyetus spp. from the Southern Russian Far East in comparison with that of samples from North America based on the sequence variation of the nuclear ribosomal gene family (18S, internal transcribed spacers, ITS1-5·8S-ITS2 and 28S). High levels of genetic divergence in each rDNA region (nucleotide substitutions, indels, alterations in the secondary structures of the ITS1 and ITS2 transcripts) as well as results of phylogenetic analysis provided strong support for the status of N. salmincola and N. schikhobalowi as independent species.
Dogs serve as hosts for a great number of parasites, which may affect their health and wellbeing. This study aimed to observe tick borne pathogens in dogs from Palestine including Hepatozoon canis and Babesia species. The prevalence of both H. canis and Babesia species infections in apparently healthy dogs, from ten districts of the West Bank was surveyed. DNA was extracted from blood samples obtained from dogs (n = 362) and ticks (n = 213) collected from dogs (n = 77). A primer set that amplifies a partial sequence of the Babesia and Hepatozoon 18S rRNA gene was used for PCR and the DNA sequences of the PCR products of all samples were determined. Twenty-nine (8·0%) of the dogs were found infected including 20 with H. canis (5·5%), seven with Babesia vogeli (1·9%) and two with undefined Babesia spp. (0·6%). Twelve Rhipicephalus sanguineus s.l ticks were pathogen-positive, including ten with H. canis (4·7%), one with B. vogeli (0·5%), and one with Hepatozoon felis (0·5%). The results indicated that a wide range of tick borne pathogens is circulating in the canine population in the surveyed region. This study is the first report on the prevalence of H. canis, B. vogeli and Babesia spp. in dogs in Palestine and its results will assist in the management of diseases associated with these blood parasites.
Studies of blood parasite infection in nestling birds rarely find a high prevalence of infection. This is likely due to a combination of short nestling periods (limiting the age at which nestlings can be sampled) and long parasite prepatent periods before gametocytes can be detected in peripheral blood. Here we examine rates of blood parasite infection in nestlings from three Columbid species in the UK. We use this system to address two key hypotheses in the epidemiology of avian haemoparasites: first, that nestlings in open nests have a higher prevalence of infection; and second, that nestlings sampled at 14 days old have a higher apparent infection rate than those sampled at 7 days old. Open-nesting individuals had a 54% infection rate compared with 25% for box-nesters, probably due to an increased exposure of open-nesting species to dipteran vectors. Nestlings sampled at 14 days had a 68% infection rate compared with 32% in nestlings sampled at 7 days, suggesting that rates of infection in the nest are high. Further work should examine nestlings post-fledging to identify rates of successful parasite infection (as opposed to abortive development within a dead-end host) as well as impacts on host post-fledging survival and behaviour.
The population growth of endangered whooping cranes (Grus americana) is not consistent with species recovery goals, and the impact of parasite infection on whooping crane populations is largely unknown. Disease ecology and epidemiology research of endangered species is often hindered by limited ability to conduct invasive sampling on the target taxa. Accordingly, we hypothesized that sandhill cranes (Grus canadensis) would be a useful surrogate species to investigate the health impacts of Haemosporida infection in whooping cranes. Our goal was to compare the prevalence and diversity of Haemosporida infection between whooping cranes and sandhill cranes. We detected an overall infection prevalence of 83·6% (n = 61) in whooping cranes and 59·6% (n = 47) and 63·6 (n = 22) in two sympatric sandhill crane populations captured in Texas. Prevalence was significantly lower in allopatric sandhill cranes captured in New Mexico (12·1%, n = 33). Haemoproteus antigonis was the most abundant haemoparasite in cranes, present in 57·4% of whooping cranes and 39·2% of sandhill cranes; Plasmodium and Leucocytozoon were present at significantly lower levels. The high prevalence of Haemosporida in whooping cranes and sympatric sandhill cranes, with shared parasite lineages between the two species, supports sandhill cranes as a surrogate species for understanding health threats to endangered whooping cranes.
Apical membrane antigen-1 (AMA-1) has been described as a potential vaccine candidate in apicomplexan parasites. Here we characterize the ama-1 gene. The full-length ama-1 gene of Babesia sp. BQ1 (Lintan) (BLTAMA-1) is 1785 bp, which contains an open reading frame (ORF) encoding a 65-kDa protein of 594 amino acid residues; by definition, the 5′ UTR precedes the first methionine of the ORF. Phylogenetic analysis based on AMA-1 amino acid sequences clearly separated Piroplasmida from other Apicomplexa parasites. The Babesia sp. BQ1 (Lintan) AMA-1 sequence is most closely associated with that of B. ovata and B. bigemina, with high bootstrap value. A recombinant protein encoding a conserved region and containing ectodomains I and II of BLTAMA-1 was constructed. BLTrAMA-1-DI/DII proteins were tested for reactivity with sera from sheep infected by Babesia sp. BQ1 (Lintan). In Western-blot analysis, native Babesia sp. BQ1 (Lintan) AMA-1 proteins were recognized by antibodies raised in rabbits against BLTrAMA-1 in vitro. The results of this study are discussed in terms of gene characterization, taxonomy and antigenicity.
Based on morphological and genetic characteristics, we describe a new species of Hepatozoon in the European wild cat (Felis silvestris silvestris), herein named Hepatozoon silvestris sp. nov. The study also provides the first data on the occurrence of H. felis in this wild felid. Hepatozoon meronts were observed in multiple cross-sections of different organs of four (44%) cats. Additionally, extracellular forms, resembling mature gamonts of Hepatozoon, were found in the spleen and myocardium of two cats. Furthermore, tissues of six animals (67%) were positive by PCR. Hepatozoon felis was identified infecting one cat (11%), whereas the 18S rRNA sequences of the remaining five cats (56%) were identical, but distinct from the sequences of H. felis. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that those sequences form a highly supported clade distant from other Hepatozoon spp. Future studies should include domestic cats from the areas where the wild cats positive for H. silvestris sp. nov. were found, in order to investigate their potential role to serve as intermediate hosts of this newly described species. Identification of its definitive host(s) and experimental transmission studies are required for elucidating the full life cycle of this parasite and the possible alternative routes of its transmission.
The ‘crowding effect’ is a result of competition by parasites within a host for finite resources. Typically, the severity of this effect increases with increasing numbers of parasites within a host and manifests in reduced body size and thus fitness. Evidence for the crowding effect is mixed – while some have found negative effects, others have found a positive effect of increased parasite load on parasite fitness. Parasites are consumers with diverse trophic strategies reflected in their life history traits. These distinctions are useful to predict the effects of crowding. We studied a parasitic castrator, a parasite that usurps host reproductive energy and renders the host sterile. Parasitic castrators typically occur as single infections within hosts. With multiple parasitic castrators, we expect strong competition and evidence of crowding. We directly assess the effect of crowding on reproductive success in a barnacle population infected by a unique parasitic castrator, Hemioniscus balani, an isopod parasite that infects and blocks reproduction of barnacles. We find (1) strong evidence of crowding in double infections, (2) increased frequency of double infections in larger barnacle hosts with more resources and (3) perfect compensation in egg production, supporting strong space limitation. Our results document that the effects of crowding are particularly severe for this parasitic castrator, and may be applicable to other castrators that are also resource or space limited.
Soil-transmitted helminth (STH) infections are widely distributed in tropical and subtropical areas, including Brazil. We performed a nationwide population-based study including all deaths in Brazil from 2000 to 2011, in which STHs (ascariasis, trichuriasis and/or hookworm infection) were mentioned on death certificates, either as underlying or as associated causes of death. Epidemiological characteristics, time trends and spatial analysis of STH-related mortality were analysed. STHs was identified on 853/12 491 280 death certificates: 827 (97·0%) deaths related to ascariasis, 25 (2·9%) to hookworm infections, and 1 (0·1%) to trichuriasis. The average annual age-adjusted mortality rate was 0·34/1 000 000 inhabitants (95% confidence interval: 0·27–0·44). Females, children <10 years of age, indigenous ethnic groups and residents in the Northeast region had highest STH-related mortality rates. Nationwide mortality decreased significantly over time (annual percent change: −5·7%; 95% CI: −6·9 to −4·4), with regional differences. We identified spatial high-risk clusters for STH-related mortality mainly in the North, Northeast and South regions. Diseases of the digestive system and infectious/parasitic diseases were the most commonly associated causes of death mentioned in the STH-related deaths. Despite decreasing mortality in Brazil, a considerable number of deaths is caused by STHs, with ascariasis responsible for the vast majority. There were marked regional differences, affecting mainly children and vulnerable populations.
Host–parasite co-evolutionary studies can shed light on diversity and the processes that shape it. Molecular methods have proven to be an indispensable tool in this task, often uncovering unseen diversity. This study used two nuclear markers (18S rRNA and 28S rRNA) and one mitochondrial (cytochrome oxidase subunit I) marker to investigate the diversity of nematodes of the family Pharyngodonidae parasitizing New Zealand (NZ) lizards (lygosomine skinks and diplodactylid geckos) and to explore their co-evolutionary history. A Bayesian approach was used to infer phylogenetic relationships of the parasitic nematodes. Analyses revealed that nematodes parasitizing skinks, currently classified as Skrjabinodon, are more closely related to Spauligodon than to Skrjabinodon infecting NZ geckos. Genetic analyses also uncovered previously undetected diversity within NZ gecko nematodes and provided evidence for several provisionally cryptic species. We also examined the level of host–parasite phylogenetic congruence using a global-fit approach. Significant congruence was detected between gecko-Skrjabinodon phylogenies, but our results indicated that strict co-speciation is not the main co-evolutionary process shaping the associations between NZ skinks and geckos and their parasitic nematodes. However, further sampling is required to fully resolve co-phylogenetic patterns of diversification in this host–parasite system.
Changes in the specialization of parasite–host interactions will be influenced by variations in host species composition. We evaluated this hypothesis by comparing the composition of bats and bat flies within a roost cave over one annual. Five bat and five bat fly species occupied the cave over the course of the study. Bat species composition was 40% different in the rainy season compared with the dry–cold and dry–warm seasons. Despite the incorporation of three new bat species into the cave during the rainy season, bat fly species composition was not affected by seasonality, since the bats that arrived in the rainy season only contributed one new bat fly species at a low prevalence. Bat–bat fly ecological networks were less specialized in the rainy season compared with the dry–cold and dry–warm seasons because of the increase of host overlap among bat fly species during this season. This study suggests that seasonality promote: (1) differences in host species composition, and (2) a reduction in the specialization of host–parasite ecological networks.
Magellanic penguins (Spheniscus magellanicus) are native to Argentina, Chile and the Falkland Islands. Magellanic penguins are highly susceptible to blood parasites such as the mosquito-borne Plasmodium spp., which have been documented causing high morbidity and mortality in zoos and rehabilitation centres. However, to date no blood parasites have been detected in wild Magellanic penguins, and it is not clear whether this is reflective of their true absence or is instead related to an insufficiency in sampling effort or a failure of the diagnostic methods. We examined blood smears of 284 Magellanic penguins from the Argentinean coast and tested their blood samples with nested polymerase chain reaction tests targeting Haemoproteus, Plasmodium, Leucocytozoon and Babesia. No blood parasites were detected. Analysing the sampling effort of previous studies and the climatogeography of the region, we found there is strong basis to conclude that haemosporidians do not infect wild Magellanic penguins on the Argentinean coast. However, at present it is not possible to determine whether such parasites occur on the Chilean coast and at the Falkland Islands. Furthermore, it is troubling that the northward distribution expansion of Magellanic penguins and the poleward distribution shift of vectors may lead to novel opportunities for the transmission of blood parasites.