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J Parasitol. 2004 Jun;90(3):670-2.

High prevalence of Hepatozoon spp. (Apicomplexa, Hepatozoidae) infection in water pythons (Liasis fuscus) from tropical Australia.

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  • 1Department of Animal Ecology, Ecology Building, Lund University, S-223 62 Lund, Sweden.


Molecular methods were used to identify blood parasites frequently observed in blood smears of water pythons (Liasis fuscus) captured in our study area in the Northern Territory of Australia. A nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers amplifying the 18s ribosomal RNA (rRNA) nuclear gene resulted in a short PCR product (180 bp) matching this region in the genus Hepatozoon. However, because of the short sequence obtained. 2 new primers were designed based on 18s rRNA sequences of 3 Hepatozoon taxa available in GenBank. Using these primers, approximately 600 bp of the parasite's 18s rRNA gene was amplified successfully and sequenced from 2 water python samples. The new primers were used to investigate the prevalence of blood parasites in 100 pythons. In 25 of these samples we did not observe any blood parasites when examining stained slides. All the samples revealed a 600-bp PCR product, demonstrating that pythons in which we did not visually observe any parasites were infected by Hepatozoon spp. We also analyzed the nucleotide sequences of blood parasites in 4 other reptile taxa commonly encountered in our study area. The sequences obtained from water pythons and from 1 of these taxa were identical, suggesting that the parasite is capable of infecting hosts at different taxonomic levels.

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