Molecular characterization and distribution of Haemoproteus minutus (Haemosporida, Haemoproteidae): A pathogenic avian parasite

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Recently, the lineage hTURDUS2 of Haemoproteus minutus (Haemosporida, Haemoproteidae) was reported to cause mortality in captive parrots. This parasite lineage is widespread and prevalent in the blackbird Turdus merula throughout its entire distribution range. Species identity of other closely related lineages recently reported in dead parrots remains unclear, but will be important to determine for a better understanding of the epidemiology of haemoproteosis. Using polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based and microscopic methods, we analyzed 265 blood samples collected from 52 species of wild birds in Eurasia (23 samples from Kamchatka Peninsula, 73 from Sakhalin Island, 150 from Ekaterinburg and 19 from Irkutsk regions of Russia). Single infections of the lineages hTURDUS2 (hosts are redwing Turdus iliacus and fieldfare Turdus pilaris), hTUPHI1 (song thrush Turdus philomelos) and hTUCHR01 (fieldfare, redwing, song thrush and brown-headed thrush Turdus chysolaus) were detected. We identified species of these haemoproteids based on morphology of their blood stages and conclude that these lineages belong to H. minutus, a widespread parasite of different species of thrushes (genus Turdus), which serve as reservoir hosts of this haemoproteid infection. Phylogenetic analysis shows that the lineages hTURDUS2, hTUCHR01 and hTUPHI1 of H. minutus are closely related to Haemoproteus pallidus (lineages hPFC1 and hCOLL2), Haemoproteus pallidulus (hSYAT03), and Haemoproteus sp. (hMEUND3); genetic distance among their mitochondrial cytochrome b (cyt b) lineages is small (<1% or <4 nucleotides). All these blood parasites are different in many morphological characters, but are similar due to one feature, which is the pale staining of their macrogametocytes' cytoplasm with Giemsa. Because of the recent publications about mortality caused by the lineages hTUPHI1 and hTURDUS2 of H. minutus in captive parrots in Europe, H. minutus and the closely related H. pallidus and H. pallidulus are worth more attention as these are possible agents of haemoproteosis in exotic birds. The present study provides barcodes for molecular detection of different lineages of H. minutus, and extends information about the distribution of this blood parasite. (C) 2013 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Vaidas Palinauskas
  • Tatjana A. Iezhova
  • Asta Krizanauskiene
  • Mikhail Yu. Markovets
  • Staffan Bensch
  • Gediminas Valkiunas
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Biological Sciences
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)358-363
JournalParasitology International
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Publication categoryResearch