Title (eng)

Exo-Erythrocytic Development of Avian Haemosporidian Parasites in European Owls


Mikas Ilgūnas   Nature Research Centre

Herbert Weissenböck   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Gediminas Valkiūnas   Nature Research Centre

Mindaugas Dagys   Nature Research Centre

Tanja Himmel   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna

Josef Harl   University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna



Description (eng)

Avian haemosporidian parasites (Haemosporida, Apicomplexa) are globally distributed and infect birds of many orders. These pathogens have been much investigated in domestic and wild passeriform birds, in which they are relatively easy to access. In birds belonging to other orders, including owls (order Strigiformes), these parasites have been studied fragmentarily. Particularly little is known about the exo-erythrocytic development of avian haemosporidians. The goal of this study was to gain new knowledge about the parasites infecting owls in Europe and investigate their exo-erythrocytic stages. Tissue samples of 121 deceased owls were collected in Austria and Lithuania, and examined using polymerase chain reactions (PCR), histology, and chromogenic in situ hybridization (CISH). PCR-based diagnostics showed a total prevalence of 73.6%, revealing two previously unreported Haemoproteus and five novel Leucocytozoon lineages. By CISH and histology, meronts of several Leucocytozoon lineages (lASOT06, lSTAL5, lSTAL7) were discovered in the brains, heart muscles, and kidneys of infected birds. Further, megalomeronts of Haemoproteus syrnii (lineage hSTAL2) were discovered. This study contributes new knowledge to a better understanding of the biodiversity of avian haemosporidian parasites infecting owls in Europe, provides information on tissue stages of the parasites, and calls for further research of these under-investigated pathogens relevant to bird health.

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Blood Parasites; Molecular Characterization; Leucocytozoon-Ziemanni; Malaria Parasites; Haemoproteus; Hematozoa; Plasmodium; Infection; Prevalence; Diversity

Member of the Collection(s) (1)

o:605 Publications / University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna