Protozoa of the genus Hepatozoon spp. comprise hemogregarines belonging to the Apicomplexa phylum, which are responsible for infecting a wide variety of hosts. They have a heteroxene cycle, in which the intermediary hosts are represented by vertebrates that usually become infected by ingesting blood-feeding arthropods containing sporulated oocysts (ticks, flies, mosquitoes), which, in turn, act as definitive hosts. The epidemiology of hepatozoonosis in wild and domestic animals in Brazil is not yet fully understood, considering the diversity of vertebrate and invertebrate hosts involved in the transmission cycles. Until now, there are only three study that reported the occurrence of Hepatozoon in marsupials in our country. Opossums of Didelphis albiventris species are omnivorous animals that are well adapted to disturbed regions. In fact, the contact of opossums with domestic animals and humans in urban areas is becoming increasingly common. In addition, such mammals can act as reservoirs or definitive hosts for protozoa, helminths and arthropods, becoming potential disseminators of pathogens. Thus, the present work aims to investigate, using molecular techniques, the presence of Hepatozoon sp. in blood samples from 43 white-ear opossums (Didelphis albiventris) and 70 ticks of the genus Amblyomma spp. collected in five urban forest fragments in the city of Campo Grande, state of Mato Grosso do Sul. In addition, the presente study aims to investigate and characterize morphologically and morphometrically the presence of Hepatozoon spp. gametocytes in blood-stained smears of the captured marsupials. Subsequently, phylogenetic inferences will be drawn from the 18S rRNA sequences of Hepatozoon obtained from the opossums and ectoparasites compared to those detected in other domestic and wild hosts in Brazil and worldwide. The proposed work will contribute to a better understanding of the diversity of Hepatozoon spp. in wild animals in Brazil, considering the paucity of studies aiming at evaluating the diversity of Hepatozoon in marsupials in South America.
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