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Authors: Krisztin Szőke, Attila D. Sándor, Sándor A. Boldogh, Tamás Görföl, Jan Votýpka, Nóra Takács, Péter Estók, Dávid Kováts, Alexandra Corduneanu, Viktor Molnár, Jenő Kontschán and Sándor Hornok

Kinetoplastids are flagellated protozoa, including principally free-living bodonids and exclusively parasitic trypanosomatids. In the most species-rich genus, Trypanosoma, more than thirty species were found to infect bats worldwide. Bat trypanosomes are also known to have played a significant role in the evolution of T. cruzi, a species with high veterinary medical significance. Although preliminary data attested the occurrence of bat trypanosomes in Hungary, these were never sought for with molecular methods. Therefore, amplification of an approx. 900-bp fragment of the 18S rRNA gene of kinetoplastids was attempted from 307 ixodid and 299 argasid ticks collected from bats, and from 207 cimicid bugs collected from or near bats in Hungary and Romania. Three samples, one per each bat ectoparasite group, were PCR positive. Sequencing revealed the presence of DNA from free-living bodonids (Bodo saltans and neobodonids), but no trypanosomes were detected. The most likely source of bodonid DNA detected here in engorged bat ectoparasites is the blood of their bat hosts. However, how bodonids were acquired by bats, can only be speculated. Bats are known to drink from freshwater bodies, i.e. the natural habitats of B. saltans and related species, allowing bats to ingest bodonids. Consequently, these results suggest that at least the DNA of bodonids might pass through the alimentary mucosa of bats into their circulation. The above findings highlight the importance of studying bats and other mammals for the occurrence of bodonids in their blood and excreta, with potential relevance to the evolution of free-living kinetoplastids towards parasitism.

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