Abstract:

To better define the strains and species of Hepatozoon that infect coyotes in the south-central United States, whole blood and muscle samples were collected from 44 coyotes from 6 locations in Oklahoma and Texas. Samples were evaluated by a nested polymerase chain reaction (PCR) using primers amplifying a variable region of the apicomplexan 18S rRNA gene as well as histopathology (muscle only) for presence of tissue cysts. Hepatozoon spp. infections were identified in 79.5% (35/44) of coyotes tested including 27 of 44 (61.4%) whole blood samples and 17 of 44 (38.6%) muscle samples tested by PCR and 23 of 44 (52.3%) muscle samples evaluated by histological examination. Analysis revealed 19 distinct sequences comprising 3 major clusters of Hepatozoon spp., i.e., 1 most closely related to Hepatozoon americanum, another most closely related to Hepatozoon canis, and the third an intermediate between the 2 groups. The diversity of Hepatozoon spp. in wild canids appears greater than previously recognized and warrants further investigation.

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