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Piroplasms of New Zealand seabirds

Paparini, A., McInnes, L.M., Di Placido, D., Mackereth, G., Tompkins, D.M., Clough, R., Ryan, U.M. and Irwin, P.J. (2014) Piroplasms of New Zealand seabirds. Parasitology Research, 113 (12). pp. 4407-4414.

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Blood and ectoparasitic ticks were collected from migratory seabirds in New Zealand, including Australasian gannets (n=13) from two sites and red-billed gulls (n=9) and white-fronted terns (n=2) from a third location. Blood smears were screened for parasite presence by microscopy, while DNA from blood samples was subjected to PCR for the presence of tick-transmitted protozoan haemoparasites belonging to the order Piroplasmida. Parasites were identified by comparing small subunit ribosomal RNA (18S rDNA) gene sequences to related sequences on GenBank. Analyses indicated that nine birds were infected with unknown variants of a Babesia poelea-like parasite (recorded as genotypes I and II), while four harboured a piroplasm that was genetically similar to Babesia kiwiensis. There was no parasite stratification by bird species; both the gannets and gulls were positive for all three parasites, while the terns were positive for the B. kiwiensis-like and the B. poelea-like (genotype I) parasites. The B. kiwiensis-like parasite found in the birds was also found in two species of ticks: Carios capensis and Ixodes eudyptidis. This represents the first report of Babesia-positive ticks parasitising seabirds in New Zealand. The lack of host specificity and evidence of wide ranging distributions of the three piroplasm genotypes suggests there is a high degree of haemoparasite transmission occurring naturally between New Zealand seabird populations and species.

Publication Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: School of Veterinary and Life Sciences
Publisher: Springer Verlag
Copyright: © Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014
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