An unusual intraerythrocytic parasite of Parablennius cornutus from South Africa

Davies, Angela J., Reed, Cecile C. and Smit, Nico J. (2003) An unusual intraerythrocytic parasite of Parablennius cornutus from South Africa. Journal of Parasitology, 89(5), pp. 913-917. ISSN (print) 0022-3395


An intertidal horned blenny, Parablennius cornutus, captured at De Hoop Nature Reserve, South Africa, was found to harbor an unusual blood parasite and the haemogregarine Haemogregarina bigemina. In Giemsa-stained blood films, the enigmatic parasite occurred primarily as intraerythrocytic ringlike stages, with unstained centers and peripheral bands of beaded chromatin, not unlike Haemohormidium spp. Larger forms of the same organism stained pink with Giemsa, with nuclei occurring as 4-8 minute structures around the parasite body or distributed within it. These larger parasites apparently segmented into up to 8 individuals that were rounded or oval with deep-stained, comma-shaped or polar regions surrounding blue cytoplasm. Extracellular, binucleate, sporelike structures in clusters of as many as 16 individuals were also seen in blood films. Praniza larvae of the isopod Gnathia africana were seen in histological sections of gill tissue. Examination of spleen tissue by transmission electron microscopy showed intraerythrocytic organisms with ultrastructural characteristics like those of Haematractidium scombri, namely, a single boundary membrane, sometimes closely apposed nuclei with nucleoli, and profiles of dense material of variable structure. It is concluded that the parasite is probably related to Haemohormidium spp. and H. scombri, but it also shares features with some Microsporida.

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