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Molecular evidence of Sarcocystis species in captive snakes in Japan


Sarcocystis nesbitti, using snakes as the definitive host, is a causative agent of acute human muscular sarcocystosis in Malaysia. Therefore, it is important to explore the distribution and prevalence of S. nesbitti in snakes. Nevertheless, epizootiological information of S. nesbitti in snakes remains insufficient because few surveys have assessed Sarcocystis infection in snakes in endemic countries. In Japan, snakes are popular exotic pet animals that are imported from overseas, but the degree of Sarcocystis infection in them remains unclear. The possibility exists that muscular sarcocystosis by S. nesbitti occurs in contact with captive snakes in non-endemic countries. For a total of 125 snake faecal samples from 67 snake species collected at animal hospitals, pet shops and a zoo, this study investigated the presence of Sarcocystis using polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for the 18S ribosomal RNA gene (18S rDNA). Four (3.2 %) faecal samples were positive by PCR. Phylogenetic analysis of the 18S rDNA sequences obtained from four amplification products revealed one isolate from a beauty snake (Elaphe taeniura), Sarcocystis zuoi, which uses rat snakes as the definitive host. The isolate from a Macklot’s python (Liasis mackloti) was closely related with unidentified Sarcocystis sp. from reticulated pythons in Malaysia. The remaining two isolates from tree boas (Corallus spp.) were closely related with Sarcocystis lacertae, Sarcocystis gallotiae and unidentified Sarcocystis sp. from smooth snakes, Tenerife lizards and European shrews, respectively. This report is the first of a study examining the distribution of Sarcocystis species in captive snakes in Japan.

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This study was supported by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (C) (26460818) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Sciences (JSPS).

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None declared.

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Correspondence to Niichiro Abe.

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Abe, N., Matsubara, K., Tamukai, K. et al. Molecular evidence of Sarcocystis species in captive snakes in Japan. Parasitol Res 114, 3175–3179 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-015-4564-2

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  • Sarcocystis zuoi
  • Captive snakes
  • Molecular identification
  • 18S ribosomal RNA gene