Genetic analyses of the parasitic nematode, Parelaphostrongylus tenuis, in Missouri and Kentucky reveal unexpected levels of diversity and population differentiation

L. S. Eggert, L. K. Berkman, K. Budd, B. J. Keller, A. M. Hildreth, J. J. Millspaugh

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    Abstract

    Wildlife translocations, which involve the introduction of naive hosts into new environments with novel pathogens, invariably pose an increased risk of disease. The meningeal worm Parelaphostrongylus tenuis is a nematode parasite of the white-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), which serves as its primary host and rarely suffers adverse effects from infection. Attempts to restore elk (Cervus canadensis) to the eastern US have been hampered by disease caused by this parasite. Using DNA sequence data from mitochondrial and nuclear genes, we examined the hypothesis that elk translocated within the eastern US could be exposed to novel genetic variants of P. tenuis by detailing the genetic structure among P. tenuis taken from white-tailed deer and elk at a source (Kentucky) and a release site (Missouri). We found high levels of diversity at both mitochondrial and nuclear DNA in Missouri and Kentucky and a high level of differentiation between states. Our results highlight the importance of considering the potential for increased disease risk from exposure to novel strains of parasites in the decision-making process of a reintroduction or restoration.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)31-41
    Number of pages11
    JournalParasitology
    Volume148
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Jan 2021

    Keywords

    • Brainworm
    • deer parasite
    • elk
    • meningeal worm
    • population structure
    • translocation

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