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Novel multiplex PCR reveals multiple trypanosomatid species infecting North American bumble bees (Hymenoptera: Apidae: Bombus)

Tripodi, Amber D., Szalanski, Allen L., Strange, James P.
Journal of invertebrate pathology 2018 v.153 pp. 147-155
Bombus, Crithidia bombi, DNA primers, host range, hosts, mixed infection, parasites, polymerase chain reaction, protocols, sequence analysis, surveys, symbionts, North America
Crithidia bombi and Crithidia expoeki (Trypanosomatidae) are common parasites of bumble bees (Bombus spp.). Crithidia bombi was described in the 1980s, and C. expoeki was recently discovered using molecular tools. Both species have cosmopolitan distributions among their bumble bee hosts, but there have been few bumble bee studies that have identified infections to species since the original description of C. expoeki in 2010. Morphological identification of species is difficult due to variability within each stage of their complex lifecycles, although they can be easily differentiated through DNA sequencing. However, DNA sequencing can be expensive, particularly with many samples to diagnose. In order to reliably and inexpensively distinguish Crithidia species for a large-scale survey, we developed a multiplex PCR protocol using species-specific primers with a universal trypanosomatid primer set to detect unexpected relatives. We applied this method to 356 trypanosomatid-positive bumble bees from North America as a first-look at the distribution and host range of each parasite in the region. Crithidia bombi was more common (90.2%) than C. expoeki (21.3%), with most C. expoeki-positive samples existing as co-infections with C. bombi (13.8%). This two-step detection method also revealed that 2.2% samples were positive for trypanosmatids that were neither C. bombi nor C. expoeki. Sequencing revealed that two individuals were positive for C. mellificae, one for Lotmaria passim, and three for two unclassified trypanosomatids. This two-step method is effective in diagnosing known bumble bee infecting Crithidia species, and allowing for the discovery of unknown potential symbionts.