Many bird species host several lineages of apicomplexan blood parasites (Protista spp., Haemosporida spp.), some of which are shared across different host species. To understand such complex systems, it is essential to consider the fact that different lineages, species, and families of parasites can occur in the same population, as well as in the same individual bird, and that these parasites may compete or interact with each other. In this study, we present a new polymerase chain reaction (PCR) protocol that, for the first time, enables simultaneous typing of species from the 3 most common avian blood parasite genera (Haemoproteus, Plasmodium, and Leucocytozoon). By combining the high detection rate of a nested PCR with another PCR step to separate species of Plasmodium and Haemoproteus from Leucocytozoon, this procedure provides an easy, rapid, and accurate method to separate and investigate these parasites within a blood sample. We have applied this method to bird species with known infections of Leucocytozoon spp., Plasmodium spp., and Haemoproteus spp. To obtain a higher number of parasite lineages and to test the repeatability of the method, we also applied it to blood samples from bluethroats (Luscinia svecica), for which we had no prior knowledge regarding the blood parasite infections. Although only a small number of different bird species were investigated (6 passerine species), we found 22 different parasite species lineages (4 Haemoproteus, 8 Plasmodium, and 10 Leucocytozoon).
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