Phylogeny and Prevalence of Haemosporidian Parasites of Free-ranging Domestic Birds in Northwestern Uganda Jesca Nakayima1,*, Eugene Arinaitwe2, William M. Kabasa3, Paul D. Kasaija1, Constance Agbemelo-Tsomafo4, Léonce Kouakanou5, and Taiwo C. Omotoriogun6,7,8 1National Livestock Resources Research Institute, P.O. Box 5704, Nakyesasa, Wakiso, Uganda; 2National Animal Disease Diagnostics and Epidemiology Centre, P.O. Box 513, Entebbe, Uganda; 3College of Veterinary Medicine, Animal Resources and Biosecurity, P.O. Box 7062 Kampala, Uganda; 4Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, Department of Animal Experimentation, University of Ghana, Ghana; 5Laboratory of Biology and Molecular Typing in Microbiology, Faculty of Sciences and Techniques, University of Abomey Calavi, Benin; 6Biotechnology Unit, Department of Biological Sciences, Elizade University, P.M.B 002, Ilara-Mokin, Ondo State, Nigeria; 7AP Leventis Ornithological Research Institute, University of Jos, Nigeria; 8Natural History Museum, University of Oslo, Norway Correspondence: Jesca Nakayima, National Livestock Resources Research Institute, P.O. Box 5704, Nakyesasa, Wakiso, Uganda (firstname.lastname@example.org) Background: Infection from haemosporidian parasites is a general concern for birds, including wild and domestic poultry. Avian malaria infection is well documented in birds; it can lead to suppressed immunity, poor productivity, and high mortality. There are limited studies on haemosporidian parasites in free-ranging domestic birds. Objectives:The aim of the present study was to investigate the distribution, diversity, and infection of haemosporidian parasites among free-ranging domestic birds in Uganda. Methodology: Blood samples (n=407) were collected from free-ranging chickens (n=304), ducks (n=70), turkeys (n=14), and guinea fowl (n=19) in Northwestern Uganda to screen for haemosporidian parasites. Microscopy was used to detect parasites based on morphological characteristics. Parasites were also detected using a nested polymerase chain reaction to amplify a fragment of cyt b in mitochondrial DNA.
Results:Haemoproteus (17.25%, n=69), Plasmodium (22%, n=88) and Leucocytozoon (1.75%, n=7) were detected in sampled birds. The sequences from these genera nested within their respective clades in a phylogenetic tree constructed using sequences from the MalAvi database.
Conclusion:Free-ranging domestic birds are a reservoir for haemosporidian parasites, suggesting the need for control and management of these parasites in Ugandan poultry systems to avoid cross transmission of associated diseases.