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Lurking In The Wings:  Avian Hemoparasites And Their Insect Vectors At The Fort Worth Zoo

Veronica Flores, Tracy Cyr, Karen Snowden, Shannon Ferrell*
Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, College of Veterinary Medicine, Texas A&M University.  College Station, TX 77843. veronica flores picture


Objective – To screen potential insect vectors and the avian collection of the Fort Worth Zoo for avian hemoparasites.

Sample Population – Biting insects collected in miniature CDC CO2 baited light traps and blood samples obtained from the avian collection at the Fort Worth Zoo.

Procedure – Five insect sampling sites were chosen based on proximity to potential insect breeding sites or past bird fatalities.  Miniature CDC CO2 baited light traps were used to catch mosquitoes and Culicoides flies, known vectors of Plasmodium and Haemoproteus, respectively.  DNA was extracted from mosquitoes, Culicoides, and avian blood samples, and was tested for parasites using a nested PCR protocol.  Appropriately sized amplicons were sequenced and analyzed using a GenBank BlastN search to identify the parasites.

Results – Over 175 female Culex mosquitoes and 95 female Culicoides flies were collected.  A total of six mosquitoes from two species, C. restuans and C. quinquefasciatus, tested positive for parasites.  Parasite identities will be confirmed by sequencing.  DNA has been extracted from Culicoides flies and will be tested for parasites.  One yellow bellied laughing thrush (Garrulax galbanus) has been identified as a carrier of Plasmodium sp.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance – Results suggest that both components of the transmission cycle, insects with vector capability and carrier avian hosts, are present at the Fort Worth Zoo.  Preliminary data suggest locations where heightened fly control should be implemented in the zoo.  Carrier birds should be isolated in fly-proof enclosures.  Without intervention, the avian collection remains at risk for infection