Native and Introduced Trypanosome Parasites in Endemic and Introduced Murine Rodents of Sulawesi

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The Indonesian island of Sulawesi is a globally significant biodiversity hotspot with substantial undescribed biota, particularly blood-borne parasites of endemic wildlife. Documenting the blood parasites of Sulawesi's murine rodents is the first fundamental step towards the discovery of pathogens likely to be of concern for the health and conservation of Sulawesi's endemic murines. We screened liver samples from 441 specimens belonging to 20 different species of murine rodents from 2 mountain ranges on Sulawesi, using polymerase chin reaction (PCR) primers targeting the conserved 18S rDNA region across the protozoan class Kinetoplastea. We detected infections in 156 specimens (10 host species) with a mean prevalence of 35.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] = 30.9-39.8%). Sequences from these samples identified 4 infections to the genus Parabodo, 1 to Blechomonas, and the remaining 151 to the genus Trypanosoma. Within Trypanosoma, we recovered 17 haplotypes nested within the Trypanosoma theileri clade infecting 117 specimens (8 host species) and 4 haplotypes nested within the Trypanosoma lewisi clade infecting 34 specimens (6 host species). Haplotypes within the T. theileri clade were related to regional Indo-Australian endemic trypanosomes, displayed geographic structuring but with evidence of long-term connectivity between mountains, and had substantial phylogenetic diversity. These results suggest T. theileri clade parasites are native to Sulawesi. Conversely, T. lewisi clade haplotypes were recovered from both endemic and introduced rodents, demonstrated complete geographic separation between clades, and had low genetic diversity. These results suggest that the T. lewisi clade parasites invaded Sulawesi recently and likely in 2 separate invasion events. Our results provide the first records of metakinetoplastids in Sulawesi's rodents and highlight the need for more extensive sampling for pathogens in this biodiversity hotspot.

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The Journal of parasitology

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