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Blood parasites in endangered wildlife - Trypanosomes discovered during a survey of haemoprotozoa from the Tasmanian devil

Egan, S.L., Ruiz-Aravena, M., Austen, J.M.ORCID: 0000-0002-1826-1634, Barton, X., Comte, S., Hamilton, D.G., Hamede, R.K., Ryan, U.M.ORCID: 0000-0003-2710-9324, Irwin, P.J.ORCID: 0000-0002-0006-8262, Jones, M.E. and Oskam, C.L. (2020) Blood parasites in endangered wildlife - Trypanosomes discovered during a survey of haemoprotozoa from the Tasmanian devil. Pathogens, 9 (11). Article 873.

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The impact of emerging infectious diseases is increasingly recognised as a major threat to wildlife. Wild populations of the endangered Tasmanian devil, Sarcophilus harrisii, are experiencing devastating losses from a novel transmissible cancer, devil facial tumour disease (DFTD); however, despite the rapid decline of this species, there is currently no information on the presence of haemoprotozoan parasites. In the present study, 95 Tasmanian devil blood samples were collected from four populations in Tasmania, Australia, which underwent molecular screening to detect four major groups of haemoprotozoa: (i) trypanosomes, (ii) piroplasms, (iii) Hepatozoon, and (iv) haemosporidia. Sequence results revealed Trypanosoma infections in 32/95 individuals. Trypanosoma copemani was identified in 10 Tasmanian devils from three sites and a second Trypanosoma sp. was identified in 22 individuals that were grouped within the poorly described T. cyclops clade. A single blood sample was positive for Babesia sp., which most closely matched Babesia lohae. No other blood protozoan parasite DNA was detected. This study provides the first insight into haemoprotozoa from the Tasmanian devil and the first identification of Trypanosoma and Babesia in this carnivorous marsupial.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation: Harry Butler Institute
Health Futures Institute
Publisher: MDPI
Copyright: © 2020 by the authors
United Nations SDGs: Goal 15: Life on Land
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