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Investigating the role of columbiforms in the molecular epidemiology of trichomonosis in UK birds

2011Investigating the role of columbiforms in the molecular epidemiology of trichomonosis in UK birds.CHI Jean (United States)
Organisation:University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK)Supervisor :Diana Bell, Kevin Tyler, Becki Lawson & Andrew Cunningham
Summary: Trichomonosis is a recently emerged infectious disease of British finches that was first reported in 2005. The disease has since caused unprecedented negative population-level impacts on several passerine species 2006 and 2007 in the UK. It is caused by the flagellate protozoan Trichomonas gallinae and has been historically associated with columbiform and raptor species. Columbiforms are thought to act as reservoir hosts of the parasite, and are believed to be responsible for world-wide distribution of T. gallinae. Raptors become infected through predation or scavenging of infected bird prey. Since 2007, trichomonosis has been reported for the first time in finch species from Fennoscandia as well as eastern Canada. Research to date indicates that the finch epidemic strain of T. gallinae is clonal. however, molecular epidemiological data is currently lacking for columbiform and raptor species, including the origin of the epidemic finch strain, its prevalence in avian populations and the extent of strain diversity of T. gallinae within British wild birds. This project aimed to assess basic epidemiological evidence from columbiform species in the East Anglian region, and to compare field samples with those obtained from archived avifaunal species from throughout the UK and Europe. DNA extractions from T. gallinae obtained from parasite culture and infected lesion tissue were amplified using PCR at the ITS1/5.8s rRNA/ITS2 and hydrogenosomal Fe-hydrogenase loci. Sequences were compared to the UK epidemic finch strain as well as other known T. gallinae strains. Preliminary results from DNA sequences showed little to no variation from the UK epidemic finch strain in both genes, suggesting that the disease may have jumped species from columbiform reservoir hosts. Further comparison of sequence data of T. gallinae strains collected from finch, columbiform, and raptor hosts might inform and predict routes of transmission of the parasite.
Keywords:Trichomonosis, Trichomonas gallinae, molecular epidemiology, infectious disease