Hepatozoon species (Adeleorina: Hepatozoidae) of African bufonids, with morphological description and molecular diagnosis of Hepatozoon ixoxo sp. nov. parasitising three Amietophrynus species (Anura: Bufonidae)
Netherlands, Edward C.
Cook, Courtney A.
Smit, Nico J.
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Background Haemogregarines comprise a large group of apicomplexan blood parasites. In 1996 all anuran haemogregarines still in the genus Haemogregarina Danilewsky, 1885 were reassigned to the genus Hepatozoon Miller, 1908. Most (11/15, 73%) African anuran Hepatozoon species have been recorded from the family Bufonidae, however, all these are recorded from only two host species, Amietophrynus mauritanicus (Schlegel, 1841) and Amietophrynus regularis (Reuss, 1833) from Northern and central Africa. To the authors’ knowledge the only description of an anuran haemogregarine from South Africa is Hepatozoon theileri (Laveran, 1905), parasitising Amietia quecketti (Boulenger, 1895). Methods Thin blood smears for morphometrics and whole blood for molecular work, were collected from 32 Amietophrynus garmani (Meek, 1897), 12 Amietophrynus gutturalis (Power, 1927), and nine Amietophrynus maculatus (Hallowell, 1854), in Ndumo Game Reserve and Kwa Nyamazane Conservancy, KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. Smears were Giemsa-stained, screened for haemogregarines, parasite stages measured, compared to each other and to other described African bufonid haemogregarines. Parasite 18S rDNA was amplified using two apicomplexan-specific primer sets, HepF300/HepR900 and 4558/2733. Resulting sequences of the haemogregarine isolates from the three Amietophrynus species were compared with each other and to comparative haemogregarine sequences selected from GenBank. Results Morphological characteristics of parasite stages, in particular characteristically capped mature gamont stages, and molecular findings, supported all three haemogregarine isolates from all three Amietophrynus species to be the same, a species of Hepatozoon, and furthermore different morphologically from other previously recorded bufonid Hepatozoon species. The haemogregarine fell within a clade comprising other anuran Hepatozoon species and furthermore, within a monophyletic sub-clade along with H. theileri and are described as Hepatozoon ixoxo sp. nov. Conclusions This is the first morphological and molecular account of Hepatozoon species within the family Bufonidae from South Africa, a study hoped to encourage the redescription and molecular analysis of those Hepatozoon species described in the past from Amietophrynus species, as well as to promote the use of both morphological and molecular characteristics in Hepatozoon species descriptions. This will aid in comprehensive Hepatozoon descriptions, which along with the use of phylogenetic analysis will give a better indication of these parasites possible vectors and life cycle dynamics.