Molecular techniques were used to examine the phylogenetic relationships among Hepatozoon species isolated from 13 foxes and 15 opossums from Brazil, and from 15 dogs, 20 foxes, 45 rodents, and 330 domestic cats from Spain. Hemogregarine infection was confirmed by amplification of the 18S rRNA gene and later sequencing. No hemogregarine infections were found in opossums. The prevalence of Hepatozoon in canids ranged from 26.6% (symptomatic domestic dogs) to 90% (Spanish foxes). Four different H. canis genotypes were detected, as well as an H. americanum-related protozoan (97% identical to the USA strain). Two Spanish cats were parasitized by a Hepatozoon species (0.6% prevalence) that showed 96% sequence identity to H. canis. DNA amplification assays performed on Spanish rodents showed 2 bank voles (Clethrionomys glareolus) to be infected by a Hepatozoon species (4.44% prevalence) with 95% sequence identity to Hepatozoon sp. from cats. Phylogenetic analysis showed Hepatozoon to be a monophyletic genus, in which species from carnivorous mammals (Hepatozoon sp. from cats, H. americanum and H. canis) appear as a sister lineage of that of lower vertebrates and rodents. This association suggests that H. americanum evolved in ticks and carnivores (either canids, or felids, or both) rather than in other ectoparasites and other types of mammal.

You do not currently have access to this content.