Trypanosoma (Herpetosoma) diversity in rodents and lagomorphs of New Mexico with a focus on epizootological aspects of infection in Southern Plains woodrats (Neotoma micropus)

Goodrich I, McKee C, Kosoy M

Protozoan parasites of the genus Trypanosoma infect a broad diversity of vertebrates and several species cause significant illness in humans. However, understanding of the phylogenetic diversity, host associations, and infection dynamics of Trypanosoma species in naturally infected animals is incomplete. This study investigated the presence of Trypanosoma spp. in wild rodents and lagomorphs in northern New Mexico, United States, as well as phylogenetic relationships among these parasites. A total of 458 samples from 13 rodent and one lagomorph species collected between November 2002 and July 2004 were tested by nested PCR targeting the 18S ribosomal RNA gene (18S rRNA). Trypanosoma DNA was detected in 25.1% of all samples, with the highest rates of 50% in Sylvilagus audubonii, 33.1% in Neotoma micropus, and 32% in Peromyscus leucopus. Phylogenetic analysis of Trypanosoma sequences revealed five haplotypes within the subgenus Herpetosoma (T. lewisi clade). Focused analysis on the large number of samples from N. micropus showed that Trypanosoma infection varied by age class and that the same Trypanosoma haplotype could be detected in recaptured individuals over multiple months. This is the first report of Trypanosoma infections in Dipodomys ordii and Otospermophilus variegatus, and the first detection of a haplotype phylogenetically related to T. nabiasi in North America in S. audubonii. This study lends important new insight into the diversity of Trypanosoma species, their geographic ranges and host associations, and the dynamics of infection in natural populations.