Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

A new PCR assay for simultaneous studies of Leucocytozoon, Plasmodium, and Haemoproteus from avian blood.

Abstract

Many bird species host several lineages of apicomplexan blood parasites (Protista and Haemosporida), some of which are shared across different host species. To understand such complex systems, it is essential to consider the fact that different lineages, species and families of parasites can occur in the same population, as well as in the same individual bird, and that these parasites may compete or interact with each other. In this study, we present a new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol which targets the cytochrome b gene of parasites, thus enabling the screening and simultaneous typing of species from the 3 most common avian blood parasite genera (Haemoproteus, Plasmodium and Leucocytozoon). By combining the high detection rate of a nested PCR with another PCR step to separate species of Plasmodium and Haemoproteus from Leucocytozoon, this procedure provides an easy, rapid and accurate method to separate and investigate these parasites within a blood sample. We applied this method to bird species with known infections of Leucocytozoon spp., Plasmodium spp., and Haemoproteus spp. To obtain a higher number of parasite lineages and to test the repeatability of the method, we also applied it to blood samples from bluethroats (Luscinia svecica), for which we had no prior knowledge regarding the blood parasite infections. Although only a small number of different bird species were investigated (6 passerine species: L. svecica, Fringilla montifringilla, Parus caerulaeus, Loxia curvirostra, Erithacus rubecula and Carduelis spinus), we found 22 different parasite species lineages (4 Haemoproteus, 8 Plasmodium and 10 Leucocytozoon).