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Occurrence and diversity of avian haemosporidia in Afrotropical landbirds

Chaisi, Mamohale E., Osinubi, Samuel T., Dalton, Desire L., Suleman, Essa
International journal for parasitology 2019 v.8 pp. 36-44
DNA, Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon, Palearctic region, Plasmodium, cytochrome b, databases, extinction, genetic variation, host-parasite relationships, mitochondria, mitochondrial genes, parasites, phylogeny, quantitative polymerase chain reaction, wild birds, South Africa, Western Africa
Avian haemosporidian infections are widespread and can result in the decline of wild bird populations or in some cases contribute to extinction of species. We determined the prevalence and genetic diversity of avian haemosporidia in 93 samples from 22 landbird species from South Africa (N = 76) and West Africa (N = 17), of which six are intra-African migrants and one is a Palearctic migrant. The samples were analysed for the presence of avian haemosporidian DNA using real-time quantitative PCR (qPCR) and nested PCR assays targeting specific mitochondrial genes of these parasites. The cytochrome b (cytb) gene was sequenced for all samples that tested positive and phylogenetic analysis was conducted in order to determine the relationship of the new sequences with previously published sequences from the MalAvi database. The overall prevalence of avian haemosporidiosis was 68.82% (95% CI: 56.4%–78.87%) and 82.80% (95% CI: 65.68%–86.11%) as determined by qPCR and nested PCR respectively. Eighteen (19.36%; 95% CI; 10.78%–29.97%) samples had mixed infections. Infection prevalence of all haemosporidian spp. were significantly higher (p < 0.05) in samples from West Africa. Forty-six mitochondrial sequences obtained from 14 avian species grouped into three distinct clusters of Haemoproteus (36), Leucocytozoon (8) and Plasmodium (2). These represent eight published and nine new cytb lineages. The most common lineage was Haemoproteus sp. (VIMWE1) which was identified in two bird species from West Africa and seven bird species from South Africa. This study adds to our knowledge of host-parasite relationships of avian haemosporidia of Afrotropical birds.