Grouse and ptarmigan (Galliformes) harbor fairly diverse helminth faunas that can impact the host's health, including filarial nematodes in the genus Splendidofilaria. As host and parasite distributions are predicted to shift in response to recent climate change, novel parasites may be introduced into a region and impose additional stressors on bird populations. Limited information is available on the prevalence of filariasis in Alaska galliforms. To date, no molecular surveys have been completed. Past studies relied on examining blood smears or total body necropsies, which are time-consuming and may not detect filarial parasites with low prevalence in hosts. Therefore, we developed a TaqMan probe-based real-time PCR assay targeting the cytochrome c oxidase 1 gene (COI) of Splendidofilaria to decrease processing times and increase sensitivity as well as provide baseline data on the diversity of filariid infections in galliform species in Alaska. We screened a combined total of 708 galliform samples (678 unique individual birds) from different tissues (blood, muscle, and lung) for the presence of filarial DNA across the state of Alaska. Real-time PCR screening revealed an overall prevalence of filarial infection of 9.5% across species: Bonasa umbellus (0%, n = 23), Dendragapus fuliginosus (0%, n = 8), Falcipennis canadensis (26.8%, n = 198), Lagopus lagopus (2.6%, n = 274), Lagopus leucura (0%, n = 23), Lagopus muta (3%, n = 166), and Tympanuchus phasianellus (12.5%, n = 16). We observed microfilarial infections throughout most of Alaska except in Arctic regions and the Aleutian Islands where viable vectors may not be present.

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