Occurrence of <i>Hepatozoon</i> in Some Reptiles from Brazilian Biomes with Molecular and Morphological Characterization of <i>Hepatozoon caimani</i>

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SIMOES, Pedro I.
MUDREK, Jessica R.
LIMA, Jose H. A.
OLIVEIRA, Patricia M. A.
PINHO, Joao B.
DIVERSITY-BASEL, v.15, n.12, article ID 1192, 15p, 2023
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Amphibians and reptiles represent a considerable proportion of the vertebrate fauna in Brazil. Different blood parasitic infections have been reported in these groups, such as Haemogregarina, Hepatozoon, Trypanosoma and microfilariae. However, insufficient research on interactions between these parasites and their hosts has been carried out in some regions of the country. Samples were collected from populations of wild herpetofauna in different microhabitats throughout Brazil, totaling 111 samples of reptiles from the states of Mato Grosso and Pernambuco. We used an integrative approach, with classical microscopy, morphometry and molecular analysis, in order to identify hemoparasites present in the analyzed fauna. Genomic DNA was extracted for the PCR protocol based on the 18S ribosomal RNA gene for Hepatozoon spp. A total of 53 positives were obtained with molecular screening (47.7%), all confirmed as Hepatozoon spp. using DNA sequencing. Among positive samples, 23 slides were examined, confirming the presence of Hepatozoon spp. in 91.3% of the smears. The phylogenetic analysis performed with sequences from 43 samples resulted in a tree containing several distinct clades. Sequences were generally grouped according to the taxonomic order of the host. Co-infections with microfilariae and Trypanosoma spp. were also found in microscopy analyses. This study describes the presence of Hepatozoon caimani in a new host species (Paleosuchus palpebrosus) that can be a paratenic host in the natural environment. The existence of parasitic co-infections in alligator species underscores the significance of recognizing the impact of infections by various parasitic taxa on the host populations.
Hepatozoon, parasite diversity, phylogenetic diversity
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