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Molecular identification of Sarcocystis wobeseri-like parasites in a new intermediate host species, the white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla)


A reintroduced white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla) in moderate body condition was found dead and submitted for post-mortem examination. There were no signs of disease on gross pathological examination. Histopathological examination however revealed the presence of encysted protozoan parasites in pectoral and cardiac muscle sections. Polymerase chain reaction amplification of extracted genomic DNA and sequencing of four regions: the 18S rDNA, 28S rDNA, internal transcribed spacer (ITS) 1, and RNA polymerase B (rpoB) loci, confirmed the presence of a Sarcocystis species in pectoral and cardiac muscle which appeared phylogenetically similar to Sarcocystis wobeseri. This is the first report of S. wobeseri-like infection in a white-tailed sea eagle revealing a new intermediate host species for this parasite.

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Sequences have been made applicable under the accession numbers LR884238-LR884241.

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The authors acknowledge the collaboration of the Roy Dennis Wildlife Foundation, Forestry England and Natural England. The authors acknowledge the assistance of Sophie Niall, Shaheed MacGregor, Shinto Kunjamma John and Zoological Society of London’s Wildlife Health Services in assistance with carrying out the post-mortem examination.

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Correspondence to T. Shadbolt.

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Shadbolt, T., Pocknell, A., Sainsbury, A.W. et al. Molecular identification of Sarcocystis wobeseri-like parasites in a new intermediate host species, the white-tailed sea eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla). Parasitol Res 120, 1845–1850 (2021).

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  • Sarcocystis
  • Sarcocystis wobeseri
  • Haliaeetus albicilla
  • White-tailed sea eagle