Scientists have detected for the first time the presence of the blood parasite Babesia sp. in Antarctic penguins, specifically a population of Chinstrap penguins (Pygoscelis antarctica) in Deception Island, South Shetlands, Antarctica.
Babesia is a malaria-like parasite, also called a “piroplasm,” that infects red blood cells; the disease is asymptomatic or mild with flu-like symptoms. In other cases, symptoms are characterized by irregular fevers, chills, headaches, general lethargy, pain, and malaise. In humans , if left untreated Babesia infections can develop into shock-like symptoms with pulmonary edema and renal failure.
The tick vector Ixodes uriae s the predominant tick on the Antarctic peninsula. This species has a circumpolar distribution in both tremispireres and is associated with or known to parasitize 48 (o more) species of seabirds
Although examined penguins appear to be healthy researchers can not yet assess how they are affected by infection - says Barbosa, who lead the study. The effect of Babesia infection in these penguins is unknown
- Photos: The parasite Babesia seen under the microscope and ticks, Ixodes uriae, which transmit the disease and
. Montero et al and Andres Barbosa
- Reference (Open Access) Montero et al. 2016. First record of Babesia sp. in Antarctic penguins. Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases