Genetic diversity of Hepatozoon spp. in rodents from Brazil
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Hepatozoon spp. are Apicomplexan protozoa that parasitize a wide diversity of vertebrate hosts. In Brazil, few studies have reported the occurrence of Hepatozoon spp. in rodent species. Additionally, an evaluation of the population structure and distribution of Hepatozoon species over several Brazilian biomes has not yet been performed. The present work aimed to investigate the genetic diversity of Hepatozoon spp. in rodents from 31 genera sampled in five Brazilian biomes. Samples were submitted to PCR assays for Hepatozoon spp. targeting two regions of the 18S rRNA gene. Infection by Hepatozoon spp. was detected in 195 (42.2%) rodents comprising 24 genera. Phylogenetic analyses of 18S rRNA sequences grouped all sequences in the clade of Hepatozoon spp. previously detected in rodents and reptiles, apart from those detected in domestic/wild carnivores. These data raise two non-exclusive hypotheses: (i) rodents play an important role as intermediate or paratenic hosts for Hepatozoon infections in reptiles; and (ii) rodents do not seem to participate in the epidemiology of Hepatozoon infections of domestic/wild canids and felids in Brazil. TCS analyses performed with available 18S rRNA Hepatozoon sequences detected in rodents from Brazil showed the occurrence of six haplotypes, which were distributed in two large groups: one from rodents inhabiting the coastal region of Brazil and Mato Grosso state, and another from rodents from the central region of the country. A wide survey of the South American territory will help to elucidate the evolutionary history of Hepatozoon spp. parasitizing Rodentia in the American continent.
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