Based on morphological and genetic characteristics, we describe a new species of Hepatozoon in the European wild cat (Felis silvestris silvestris), herein named Hepatozoon silvestris sp. nov. The study also provides the first data on the occurrence of H. felis in this wild felid. Hepatozoon meronts were observed in multiple cross-sections of different organs of four (44%) cats. Additionally, extracellular forms, resembling mature gamonts of Hepatozoon, were found in the spleen and myocardium of two cats. Furthermore, tissues of six animals (67%) were positive by PCR. Hepatozoon felis was identified infecting one cat (11%), whereas the 18S rRNA sequences of the remaining five cats (56%) were identical, but distinct from the sequences of H. felis. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that those sequences form a highly supported clade distant from other Hepatozoon spp. Future studies should include domestic cats from the areas where the wild cats positive for H. silvestris sp. nov. were found, in order to investigate their potential role to serve as intermediate hosts of this newly described species. Identification of its definitive host(s) and experimental transmission studies are required for elucidating the full life cycle of this parasite and the possible alternative routes of its transmission.
Bibliographical notePublisher Copyright:
© 2016 Cambridge University Press.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- European wild cat
- Felis silvestris silvestris
- Hepatozoon felis
- Hepatozoon silvestris sp. nov.
- molecular characterization