Coccidia (Apicomplexa: Eimeriidae) in the Primates and the Scandentia

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The coccidia (protistan phylum Apicomplexa Levine, 1970) comprise a large group of obligate intracellular parasites commonly found in all classes of vertebrate hosts and in some invertebrates. This review focuses on the largest family in this group, Eimeriidae Minchin, 1903, because its members are among the most prevalent and specious of all parasite groups. Nevertheless, there is a paucity of information regarding the eimeriid coccidia of Primates and their close relatives, and no taxonomic summation is currently available. We review all published descriptions of species of Cyclospora, Eimeria and Isospora that infect Scandentia and Primates. Some of the names of eimeriid species from hosts in these orders are invalid, either because rules concerning the naming of new species (International Code of Zoological Nomenclature) were not followed and/or because the original description was so incomplete and of such little use that the name must be relegated to a species inquirendae. In the Scandentia, only Tupia and Ptilocercus have valid coccidian species described from them: Eimeria ferruginea, E. modesta, and E. tupaiae in Tupaia and E. ptilocerci in Ptilocercus. Of the 60 genera of Primates only 14 (Alouatta, Aotus, Ateles, Cacajao, Callimico, Callithrix, Cebus, Galago, Homo, Macaca, Nycticebus, Saguinus, Saimiri, and Tarsius) have 6 Eimeria (E. coucangi, E. galago, E. lemuris, E. nycticebi, E. otolicini, E. pachylepyron), 7 Isospora (I. arctopitheci, I. belli, I. callimico, I. cebi, I. endocallimici, I. saimiriae, I. natalensis) and 1 Cyclospora (C. cayetanensis) described from them. In addition, one new name, an Eimeria sp., is included. We identify eight junior synomyms and note 4 species inquirendae. Primatologists should be more receptive to multidisciplinary approaches by working with parasitologists to use comparative parasite data that might provide insights into primate sociality and habitat use. The coccidia are ideal specimens for such cooperative efforts because they can be collected easily by noninvasive fecal collections. We describe methods to collect and preserve oocysts, noting that formalin and PVA, preservatives used to collect helminth stages (worms, worm eggs), will destroy the structural integrity of coccidian oocysts and make their identification impossible.

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