Abstract

Porocephalus crotali is a pentastomid parasite that uses crotaline snakes as definitive hosts and a variety of rodents as intermediate hosts. A study of definitive and intermediate pentastome hosts on Cumberland Island, Georgia, revealed high prevalence of P. crotali infection in crotalid snakes as well as several mammalian species. Despite the presence of numerous nymphs in some animals, clinical signs of disease were not observed. In intermediate hosts, the liver, mesentery, and reproductive organs were most commonly infected. No gross evidence of tissue damage was noted in association with the numerous encysted nymphal pentastomes, and histopathology demonstrated minimal reaction to the encysted nymphs. Partial 18S rRNA gene sequences confirmed the parasites were P. crotali. In contrast to many previous reports in rodents, the prevalence on this barrier island was high, and this is the first report of Virginia opossums (Didelphis virginiana) and any insectivore species as intermediate hosts. Although generally not considered pathogenic, the long-term consequences of high nymph intensities on individuals deserve attention.

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