Ultrastructural and Molecular Characterisation of an Heterosporis-Like Microsporidian in Australian Sea Snakes (Hydrophiinae)
AuthorGillett, AK; Ploeg, R; O'Donoghue, PJ; Chapman, PA; Webb, RI; Flint, M; Mills, PC
Source TitlePLoS One
PublisherPUBLIC LIBRARY SCIENCE
University of Melbourne Author/sPloeg, Richard
Document TypeJournal Article
CitationsGillett, A. K., Ploeg, R., O'Donoghue, P. J., Chapman, P. A., Webb, R. I., Flint, M. & Mills, P. C. (2016). Ultrastructural and Molecular Characterisation of an Heterosporis-Like Microsporidian in Australian Sea Snakes (Hydrophiinae). PLOS ONE, 11 (3), https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0150724.
Access StatusOpen Access
Four sea snakes (two Hydrophis major, one Hydrophis platurus, one Hydrophis elegans) were found washed ashore on different beaches in the Sunshine Coast region and Fraser Island in Queensland, Australia between 2007-2013. Each snake had multiple granulomas and locally extensive regions of pallor evident in the hypaxial and intercostal musculature along the body. Lesions in two individuals were also associated with vertebral and rib fractures. Histological examination revealed granulomas scattered throughout skeletal muscle, subcutaneous adipose tissue and fractured bone. These were composed of dense aggregates of microsporidian spores surrounded by a mantle of macrophages. Sequences (ssrRNA) were obtained from lesions in three sea snakes and all revealed 99% similarity with Heterosporis anguillarum from the Japanese eel (Anguillarum japonica). However, ultrastructural characteristics of the organism were not consistent with those of previous descriptions. Electron microscopic examination of skeletal muscle revealed large cysts (not xenomas) bound by walls of fibrillar material (Heterosporis-like sporophorocyst walls were not detected). The cysts contained numerous mature microsporidian spores arranged in small clusters, sometimes apparently within sporophorous vesicles. The microspores were monomorphic, oval and measured 2.5-3.0 μm by 1.6-1.8 μm. They contained isofilar polar filaments with 11 (infrequently 9-12) coils arranged in two ranks. This is the first published report of a microsporidian infection in hydrophiid sea snakes. This discovery shows microsporidia with molecular affinities to Heterosporis anguillarum but ultrastructural characters most consistent with the genus Pleistophora (but no hitherto described species). Further studies are required to determine whether the microsporidian presented here belongs to the genus Heterosporis, or to a polymorphic species group as suggested by the recognition of a robust Pleistophora/Heterosporis clade by molecular studies. The gross and histological pathology associated with these infections are described.
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