Establishing a New Species Encephalitozoon pogonae for the Microsporidian Parasite of Inland Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps Ahl 1927 (Reptilia, Squamata, Agamidae)

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The microsporidium parasitizing Inland Bearded Dragons Pogona vitticeps, and developing primarily in macrophages within foci of granulomatous inflammation of different organs, is described as a new species Encephalitozoon pogonae. Establishing the new species was based on sequencing the ITS-SSUrDNA region of the ribosomal gene and consequent SSUrDNA-inferred phylogenetic analyses, as well as on comparison of pathogenesis, host specificity, and ultrastructure among Encephalitozoon species and isolates. The new species is closely related to E. lacertae and E. cuniculi. Analysis of the literature suggests that this microsporidium has been reported previously as an unidentified microsporidian species or isolate of E. cuniculi and may represent a common infection in bearded dragons. All stages of E. pogonae develop in parasitophorous vacuoles. Uninucleate spores on methanol-fixed smears measured 2.1 × 1.1 μm, range 1.7-2.6 × 0.9-1.7 μm; on ultrathin sections spores measured 0.8-1.1 × 1.8-2.2 μm. Ultrastructural study revealed 3-6 polar filament coils, a mushroom-shaped polar disk, and a polar sac embracing half of the volume occupied by the lamellar polaroplast. In activated spores, polar filament everted eccentrically. The overall morphology and intracellular development of E. pogonae were similar to other Encepahalitozoon spp. We also review the existing data on microsporidia infecting reptiles.

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The Journal of eukaryotic microbiology

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