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Arquivo Brasileiro de Medicina Veterinária e Zootecnia

Print version ISSN 0102-0935On-line version ISSN 1678-4162

Arq. Bras. Med. Vet. Zootec. vol.55 no.2 Belo Horizonte Apr. 2003 



Digenetic trematodes infection in a Bothrops moojeni (Viperidae) population from a fauna rescue in Porto Primavera, São Paulo State


Infecção por trematódeos digenéticos em população de Bothrops moojeni (Viperidae) proveniente de resgate de fauna em Porto Primavera, São Paulo



T.H. BarrellaI; R.J. SilvaII, *

ICentro de Estudos de Venenos e Animais Peçonhentos (CEVAP/UNESP)
IIDepartamento de Parasitologia, Instituto de Biociências, Unesp Distrito de Rubião Júnior, s/n 18618-000 - Botucatu, SP



Keywords: snakes, Trematoda, Opisthogonimus spp., Sticholecitha serpentis, Bothrops moojeni, fauna rescue


No presente estudo é descrita a infecção por trematódeos digenéticos parasitas da cavidade oral e esôfago em uma população de serpentes Bothrops moojeni provenientes de resgate de fauna em Porto Primavera, Estado de São Paulo. Foi observada prevalência de infecção de 68%. O grau de infecção (número de trematódeos por serpente) variou de 2 a 51 helmintos. Os trematódeos encontrados foram Ophisthogonimus spp. e Sticholecitha serpentis. A alta prevalência de infecção foi associada com a drástica alteração ambiental e o estresse multi-fatorial aos quais os animais foram submetidos, que poderiam ter favorecido o ciclo dos parasitas.

Palavras-chave: serpentes, Trematoda, Opisthogonimus spp., Sticholecitha serpentis, Bothrops moojeni, resgate de fauna.



In 1998, after the construction of the Sérgio Motta Hydroelectric Power Plant, a fauna rescue was performed in the Porto Primavera , São Paulo State, Brazil. A population of 250 Bothrops moojeni was captured and donated to the Centro de Estudos de Venenos e Animais Peçonhentos, Universidade Estadual Paulista (CEVAP/UNESP). These snakes were maintained in semi-extensive captivity breeding system. After an adaptation period (one month), the first venom extraction was made. During this procedure, it was observed that a large number of animals had digenetic trematodes in the oral cavity and esophagus.

Travassos et al. (1969) published a landmark review article about Brazilian trematodes. Ever since, few reports on trematodes of Brazilian snakes have been published. Artigas and Perez (1969), published a systematic review about Opisthogonimidae family and suggested the criation of a new family called Bieriidae. Artigas and Campos (1977) reported the presence of Plagiorchis luehei in Hydrodynastes gigas. Fortes and Hoffmann (1987/1988) described the occurrence of helminthes in snakes from Rio Grande do Sul. Correa et al. (1990) described Ochetosoma heterocoelium in Bothrops insularis. Silva et al. (1999) reported the finding of O. heterocoelium in a specimen of Chironius exoletus. However, it was not found any report on the occurrence of trematodes in a representative sample of wild snake populations from the same species and habitat.

The objective of this study was to describe digenetic trematode infection in a population of B. moojeni and to determine prevalence, degree of infection (number of worms in each animal), and species involved in the parasitism.

Fifty B. moojeni from the fauna rescue in the Porto Primavera region, São Paulo State, Brazil were used in this study. Oral cavity and esophagus examination was performed in each animal. Animals that had trematodes infection were immobilized; the trematodes were collected and fixed in Railliet and Henry solution without compression. Some were then stained with carmine, clarified in creosote, and observed using an optical microscope. Identification of species was accomplished based on descriptions by Yamaguti (1971) and Travassos et al. (1969).

The total prevalence of digenetic trematode infection in the oral cavity and esophagus was 68%. The number of trematodes found in each snake ranged from one to 50 helminthes specimens. However, 1 to 15 trematodes per animal was the most common finding (Fig. 1). Infected animals showed an inverse relationship between the number and size of parasites. For instance, a snake from which 51 helminthes were collected, the mean of parasite length was around 2.86mm; a snake from which two helminthes were collected, the mean length was 5.47mm. Morphological study of parasites allowed the identification of Sticholecitha serpentis and Opisthogonimus spp. Opisthogonimus spp. was found alone in 88.2%, S. serpentis alone in 5.9% and Opisthogonimus spp. and S. serpentis combined infection in 5.9% of all infected snakes.



A high prevalence of digenetic trematode in the oral cavity and esophagus of B. moojeni (68%) was observed. Bothrops snakes from the Botucatu show a low prevalence of trematodes infection. These parasites are more commonly found in non-venomous snakes, which feed on small amphibians. Normal conditions in Porto Primavera are closely related to that in Botucatu, SP. Therefore, it is suggested that animals from Porto Primavera also usually show a low prevalence of trematodes infection and the high prevalence found in this study was an abnormal condition.

Conditions in the fauna rescue area were greatly altered by the construction of the Sérgio Motta Hydroelectric Power Plant, involving deforestation and flood of large areas. This might have induced high animal infection by trematodes, specially due to an increased food supply (amphibians). Snakes were collected from tree tops, small islands or when swimming. This environment greatly decreased the number of small rodents (the main food source), and snakes had to search for other prey (amphibians and fish), which probably favored the parasite life cycle.

Smyth (1994) reported that the life cycle of these parasites requires an aquatic phase, involving two intermediate hosts: the first a gastropod and the second a fish or an amphibian (Order Anura). Snake infection occurs by ingesting one of the second hosts infected with a larval form of the parasite called metacercaria. The environment in which the snakes were collected was extremely favorable to gastropods, fish and amphibians, and consequently to the parasite life cycle.

Stress caused by capture, handling, transportation and captivity breeding might have contributed to the high infection rate in snakes. The snakes were captured with hooks, placed in boxes or cloth sacks and sent to the rescue operation control center, where they were housed in larger boxes with about a hundred animals and remaining there for days or weeks, until transportation was provided.

It is possible that the changes in the ecosystem during the construction of the Sérgio Motta Hydroelectric Power Plant forced the animals to abandon their shelter and territories, being then submitted to adverse life conditions. Animal relocation in research centers, zoos, or other institutions may cause death or damage that may never be repaired.

Examination of trematodes allowed the identification of S. serpentis and Opisthogonimus spp. (Travassos et al., 1969; Yamaguti, 1971). This is the first report on the occurrence of the S. serpentis as parasites of B. moojeni. There is only one study about trematode parasites in Bothrops moojeni which included the following trematode species: Infindum infindum, Opisthogonimus artigasi, O. fonsecai, Ochetosoma heterocoelium, Styphlodora condita, and Travtrema stenocotyle (Correa, 1980). However, these data were not published.

Specimens of the Opisthogonimus genus were found in 88.2% of the studied animals. This is an abnormal condition among snakes, mainly B. moojeni populations. It was observed a great variability in helminthes morphology and based on this variability more than one specie may be involved in parasitism. However, as these helminthes were not compressed, their identification was not accurate. Histological studies should be performed for a better identification. Nevertheless, it important to report the Opistogonimus spp. infection prevalence once higher rate of parasitism are rarely described in snakes.



We thank Heloisa Maria Pardini Toledo for her assistance with the English review.



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Recebido para publicação em 17 de julho de 2002
Recebido para publicação, após modificações, em 9 de dezembro de 2002



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