Molecular characterization of Hepatozoon felis in Rhipicephalus
sanguineus ticks infested on captive lions (Panthera leo)
Received: 9 December 2016 / Accepted: 23 February 2017 / Published online: 4 March 2017
Ó Indian Society for Parasitology 2017
Abstract Hepatozoon spp. are protozoan parasites that
infect a wide range of domestic and wild animals. The
infection occurs by ingestion of an infected tick. This study
was carried out to detect and characterize Hepatozoon spp.
in ticks collected from captive lions (Panthera leo)in
Thailand based on the partial 18S rRNA gene sequence. A
total of 30 ticks were collected and identiﬁed as Rhipi-
cephalus sanguineus. The collected ticks were separated
into 10 tick pools by sex and life stages. Of the 10 tick
pools examined, only one (10%) was found to be infected
with the Hepatozoon species. Sequencing and phylogenetic
analysis showed a clustering of the partial 18S rRNA gene
sequence like that of H. felis from the GenBank database.
This is the ﬁrst report of H. felis in R. sanguineus ticks
collected from captive lions in Thailand. Our results indi-
cated that R. sanguineus may be a possible vector of feline
Hepatozoon in Thailand.
Keywords Hepatozoon felis Á Rhipicephalus sanguineus Á
Ribosomal RNA Á Lion Á Thailand
Hepatozoon is a genus of apicomplexan parasites that have
been described in a wide variety of mammals, birds, rep-
tiles and amphibians infected by ingestion of a tick con-
taining mature oocysts (Smith 1996; Baneth et al. 2003).
The infection presents as subclinical symptoms with low
levels of parasitemia or clinical signs such as emaciation,
weight loss, lethargy, fever, anemia and lymphadenopathy
with high parasitemia (Baneth and Weigler 1997; Baneth
et al. 2003). Several tick species can act as potential vec-
tors (Giannelli et al. 2013). The brown dog tick, Rhipi-
cephalus sanguineus, is the main vector of H. canis in
domestic dogs (Baneth et al. 2003).
Studies on Hepatatozoon infections in wild animals,
especially wild canids and felids, have been conducted in
several countries (Averbeck et al. 1990; Metzger et al.
et al. 2010; Kubo et al. 2010; Salakij et al.
2010; Pawar et al. 2012; Farkas et al. 2014; Hodz
ic et al.
2015). These studies have reported host species and tick
vectors characterized the parasite species. Molecular
methods such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR) are used
as epidemiology and diagnostic tools for the detection and
identiﬁcation of the Hepatozoon species (Criado-Fornelio
et al. 2003; Rubini et al. 2005; Li et al. 2008). The 18S
ribosomal RNA (18S rRNA) gene has been widely used as
a marker for detection and genetic characterization of
parasites (Inokuma et al. 2002; Criado-Fornelio et al. 2003;
Metzger et al. 2008; Kubo et al. 2010; Pawar et al. 2012).
In Thailand, although Hepatozoon infections have been
reported in domestic and wild animals and tick vectors
(Jittapalapong et al. 2006; Salakij et al. 2008, 2010;
Sumrandee et al. 2015), no studies have recorded the
presence of Hepatozoon species in ticks collected from
wild felid. Thus, this study was carried out to detect and
& Tanasak Changbunjong
The Monitoring and Surveillance Center for Zoonotic
Diseases in Wildlife and Exotic Animals, Faculty of
Veterinary Science, Mahidol University, Nakhon Pathom
Department of Pre-clinic and Applied Animal Science,
Faculty of Veterinary Science, Mahidol University,
Nakhon Pathom 73170, Thailand
Department of Natural Parks, Wildlife and Plant
Conservation, Bangkok 10900, Thailand
J Parasit Dis (July-Sept 2017) 41(3):903–907