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Increased Trypanosoma spp. richness and prevalence of haemoparasite co-infection following translocation

Northover, A.S., Godfrey, S.S., Keatley, S., Lymbery, A.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-0542-3446, Wayne, A.F., Cooper, C., Pallant, L., Morris, K. and Thompson, R.C.A. (2019) Increased Trypanosoma spp. richness and prevalence of haemoparasite co-infection following translocation. Parasites & Vectors, 12 (1). art no. 126.

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Understanding how fauna translocation and antiparasitic drug treatment impact parasite community structure within a host is vital for optimising translocation outcomes. Trypanosoma spp. and piroplasms (Babesia and Theileria spp.) are known to infect Australian marsupials, including the woylie (Bettongia penicillata). However relatively little is known about these haemoparasites, or how they respond to management practices such as translocation. We monitored haemoparasites infecting woylies for up to 12 months during two fauna translocations to supplement existing woylie populations in three different sites (Dryandra, Walcott and Warrup East) within south-western Australia between 2014 and 2016, with the aim of investigating (i) how haemoparasite prevalence, Trypanosoma spp. richness and Trypanosoma spp. community composition varied over time and between different sites following translocation; and (ii) whether ivermectin treatment indirectly impacts haemoparasite prevalence. Using molecular methods, 1211 blood samples were screened for the presence of trypanosomes, and a subset of these samples (n = 264) were also tested for piroplasms.

Trypanosomes and piroplasms were identified in 55% and 94% of blood samples, respectively. We identified five Trypanosoma species, two Theileria species, a single species of Babesia and a novel Bodo species. Trypanosoma spp. richness and the prevalence of haemoparasite co-infection increased after translocation. Prior to translocation, Trypanosoma spp. community composition differed significantly between translocated and resident woylies within Walcott and Warrup East, but not Dryandra. Six months later, there was a significant difference between translocated and resident woylies within Dryandra, but not Walcott or Warrup East. The response of haemoparasites to translocation was highly site-specific, with predominant changes to the haemoparasite community in translocated woylies occurring within the first few months following translocation. Ivermectin treatment had no significant effect on haemoparasite prevalence.

This study contributes to our understanding of haemoparasite dynamics in woylies following translocation. The highly site-specific and rapid response of haemoparasites to translocation highlights the need to better understand what drives these effects. Given that haemoparasite prevalence and composition of translocated and resident animals changed significantly following translocation, we propose that parasite monitoring should form an essential component of translocation protocols, and such protocols should endeavour to monitor translocated hosts and cohabiting species.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): College of Science, Health, Engineering and Education
Publisher: BioMed Central
Copyright: © 2019 The Author(s)
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