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Epidemiological traits of the malaria-like parasite Polychromophilus murinus in the Daubenton¿s bat Myotis daubentonii.
Parasites and Vectors
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BackgroundThe great diversity of bat haemosporidians is being uncovered with the help of molecular tools. Yet most of these studies provide only snapshots in time of the parasites discovered. Polychromophilus murinus, a malaria-like blood parasite, specialised on temperate-zone bats is a species that is being `rediscovered¿. This study describes the infection dynamics over time and between host sex and age classes.MethodsFor three years we followed the members of three breeding colonies of Myotis daubentonii in Western Switzerland and screened them for the prevalence and parasitemia of P. murinus using both molecular tools and traditional microscopy. In order to identify more susceptible classes of hosts, we measured, sexed and aged all individuals. During one year, we additionally measured body temperature and haematocrit values.ResultsJuvenile bats demonstrated much higher parasitemia than any other age class sampled, suggesting that first exposure to the parasite is very early in life during which infections are also at their most intense. Moreover, in subadults there was a clear negative correlation between body condition and intensity of infection, whereas a weak positive correlation was observed in adults. Neither body temperature, nor haematocrit, two proxies used for pathology, could be linked to intensities of infection.ConclusionIf both weaker condition and younger age are associated with higher infection intensity, then the highest selection pressure exerted by P. murinus should be at the juvenile stage. Confusion over the identities and nomenclature of malarial-like parasites requires that molecular barcodes are coupled to accurate morphological descriptions.
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