Parasitic protists are important both for humans and wildlife, and as such they are readily studied, not only as disease agents but as models of host-parasite interactions as well. Two main groups of dixenous avian blood parasites occur in wild avian hosts; haemosporidians and coccidia (Apicomplexa), and trypanosomes (Kinetoplastea). The aim of the project is to study the occurrence (prevalence, diversity), dynamics (at which age the birds get infected?), persistence (do individual hosts retain their infection status?) of haemoproteid genera Plasmodium, Haemoproteus, Leucocytozoon, blood coccidium Lankesterella, as well as Trypanosoma spp., all of which occur in our model passerine populations with high prevalences. Parasite persistence in infected hosts may be critical for parasite sustainability in host populations. In temperate regions, parasites must persist in birds during the non-transmission season when vectors are unavailable; or they must be imported from wintering grounds. By comparing different host and parasite species, we can assess the impact of avian life history traits as well as that of the transmitting vectors on the relative distribution of different parasite genera. Studying multiple species with different life-history traits at a single locality ensures similar exposure to bloodsucking vectors. Different diagnostic techniques (PCR, microscopy, culture) will be used in parallel to minimize sampling bias. The study should contribute to our knowledge of the key factors that enable the evolutionary success of avian blood parasites.

The candidate should be prepared for extensive field work during the breeding season. Basic knowledge of PCR, construction of phylogenetic trees, and statistical methods used in biology are welcomed.

Five relevant publications of the research group:

Svobodová M., Čepička I., Zídková L., Kassahun A., Votýpka J., Peške L., Hrazdilová K., Brzoňová J., Voříšek P., Weidinger K. Eurasian Sparrowhawks (Accipiter nisus) and blood parasites: Diversity and persistence of infection with Leucocytozoon, Haemoproteus, and Trypanosoma at the individual level. Parasites and Vectors, 16, 15.

Venkatachalam AKSB; Cepicka I; Hrazdilova K; Svobodova M (2023) Host specificity of passerine Lankesterella (Apicomplexa: Coccidia). European Journal of Protistology 90, Article Number 126007

Santolíková A, Brzoňová J, Čepička I, Svobodová M. (2022) Avian louse flies and their trypanosomes: New vectors, new lineages and host-parasite associations. Microorganisms 10, 584

Fialová M, Santolíková A, Brotánková A, Brzoňová J, Svobodová M. (2021) Complete life cycle of Trypanosoma thomasbancrofti, an avian trypanosome transmitted by culicine mosquitoes. Microorganisms 9, 2101

Svobodová M, Dolnik OV, Čepička I, Rádrová J. (2017) Biting midges as vectors of avian trypanosomes. Parasites and Vectors 10: DOI: 10.1186/s13071-017-2158-9

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