Three new species of Cytauxzoon in European wild felids

Vet Parasitol. 2021 Feb:290:109344. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2021.109344. Epub 2021 Jan 5.


Protists of the genus Cytauxzoon infect a wide variety of wild and domestic felids worldwide. While the American Cytauxzoon felis has been well described, data on the European isolates of Cytauxzoon are still scant. The aim of the current study was to determine the genetic diversity of European Cytauxzoon spp. in wild felids across Europe by analyzing one nuclear and two mitochondrial genes, along with representative complete mitochondrial genomes. Overall, 106 biological samples from wild felids (92 from Felis silvestris and 14 from Lynx lynx) from Germany, Romania, Czech Republic, and Luxembourg were collected and screened for the presence of Cytauxzoon spp. using nested PCR protocols, targeting the highly conserved 18S rDNA, mitochondrial cytochrome b (CytB) and cytochrome c oxidase subunit I (COI) genes. Furthermore, 18 previously confirmed wild felid biological samples from Europe, and comparative material from USA positive for C. felis, were included in the study. In 18S rDNA sequences analyses, Cytauxzoon spp. from felids formed two separate clades of New World and Old World isolates, with a low inner diversity of the European clade. In contrast to 18S rDNA, the phylogenetic analyses of CytB and COI genes affirmatively revealed three highly supported clades, resulting in three defined genotypes. Similar intra- and interspecific variability of CytB and COI genes was observed in the case of different Babesia spp. Considering geography, host species and analyses of three genes, we conclude that the three detected genotypes of Cytauxzoon in European wild felids represent three new species, which we herein describe.

Keywords: 18S rDNA; Cytauxzoon; European wild felids; Genotypes; Mitochondrial genes; Piroplasmids.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Wild / parasitology*
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics
  • Europe
  • Felidae / parasitology*
  • Genome, Mitochondrial
  • Genome, Protozoan
  • Phylogeny
  • Piroplasmida / classification
  • Piroplasmida / genetics
  • Piroplasmida / isolation & purification*
  • Protozoan Infections, Animal / epidemiology
  • Protozoan Infections, Animal / parasitology*
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S / genetics
  • Species Specificity


  • DNA, Protozoan
  • RNA, Ribosomal, 18S