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Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases

On-line version ISSN 1678-9199

J. Venom. Anim. Toxins incl. Trop. Dis vol.9 no.1 Botucatu  2003 



Trichomoniasis in Bothrops jararaca (serpentes, viperidae)



F. C. VilelaI; M. G. Da SilvaII; T. H. BarrellaI; R. J. Da SilvaIII

ICentro de Estudos de Venenos e Animais Peçonhentos (CEVAP), Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP), Botucatu, São Paulo, Brasil
IIDepartamento de Patologia, Faculdade de Medicina, UNESP, Botucatu, São Paulo, Brasil
IIIDepartamento de Parasitologia, Instituto de Biociências, UNESP, Botucatu, São Paulo, Brasil

Address to correspondence




We describe a case of trichomoniasis in a Bothrops jararaca (Serpentes, Viperidae) donated to the Center for the Study of Venoms and Venomous Animals - CEVAP/UNESP. The animal had diarrhea with great quantity of flagellated protozoa in the feces. Microscopic examination of fecal smears stained with Giemsa revealed the presence of trichomonads, morphologically similar to Trichomonas acosta. Trichomonads were not detected in fecal exams after treatment with a single dose of 40 mg/kg metronidazole (Flagyl®).

Key words:Trichomoniasis, Trichomonas sp., Bothrops jararaca, treatment, metronidazole.




Trichomonads are parasitic protists found in humans and in many animals. They are naturally found within a host, primarily in the digestive and reproductive tracts, not being viable outside the host. Direct contact is usually necessary for transmission, as intermediate carriers are not common (2,6).

In reptiles, the most common genera of flagellates include Hexamita, Trichomonas, Giardia, and Leptomonas. These flagellates have been identified in the digestive and urogenital systems of lizards, snakes, chelonians, and crocodilians. These reptiles can serve as hosts for these protozoa but all appear to be non-pathogenic and commensal organisms. Trichomonas spp. appear to be non-pathogenic in crocodilians and chelonians, even though they have been reported as hosts (3).

Signs of disease with these flagellates may include anorexia, weight loss, and unthriftiness over a time. Potential for disease is likely the result of a combination of one of these organisms and another pathogen or parasite (2,3). The resulting enteritis or nephritis may be the result of a combination of factors involving very high numbers of the parasite and a pathogenic bacteria, such as Pseudomonas spp. or Aeromonas spp. Diagnosis can be made by identification of flagellated parasites either in feces or urine of the affected reptile (2,3).

Reports on trichomoniasis in snakes are rare. The major report on this subject is by Moskowitz (5), who describes many species of trichomonads from reptiles. Akinboade and Dipeolu (1) described an infection by Trichomonas intestinalis in snakes from Africa; Tomanovic and Paunovic (8) detected Trichomonas infection in one specimen of Eunectes murinus (Serpentes, Boidae) which died in captivity; and Madre (4) reported the occurrence of trichomonads of the genus Quadrimonas in snakes from India. However, there are no reports in Brazil on the occurrence of trichomonads causing diseases in snakes. The objective of this paper is to describe a case of trichomoniasis in Bothrops jararaca (Serpentes, Viperidae).

The snake was received by the Center for the Studies of Venoms and Venomous Animals (CEVAP/UNESP) after capture in Botucatu, São Paulo State, Brazil. At first examination, the animal presented diarrheic feces and the exam of fresh preparations of fecal material showed more than one hundred flagellates under optical microscope at 40 x objective. These flagellates were fusiform, very active, and presented directional locomotion.

For identification of these flagellates, smears were made on slides containing 10 ml of rabbit serum, stained with Giemsa, and analyzed by optical microscope. Morphometrical analysis was performed with 60 specimens using Computerized System for Analysis of Images KS-300 (Zeiss). The attempt to culture the flagellates in modified Diamonds medium (7) was unsuccessful.

Direct observation of smears revealed that these flagellates were pyriform or ovoid in shape, 9.9 ± 1.6 mm long and 7.4 ± 1.9 mm wide. The three anterior flagella measured 1.2 ± 6.6, 17.1 ± 3.2, and 17.6± 3.5 mm, respectively. The undulating membrane could not be seen in Giemsa preparations. The posterior flagellum was associated with the accessory filament and was 19.1 ± 8.7 ?m long. The axostyle was broad in its anterior part and tapered to a fine posterior termination. Its total length was 9.5 ± 2.6 mm and its free posterior projection measured 3.4 ± 2.0 mm. The nucleus was in the anterior portion of the body, ovoid in shape, and 3.3 ± 0.6 mm long and 3.6 ± 0.5 mm wide (Figure 1).


Figure 1. Trichomonads of Bothrops jararaca. Scale bar: 5 mm.


Analysis of morphometrical and morphological data showed that these flagellates were closely similar to Trichomonas acosta (Figure 2) described by Moskovitz (5). This species was isolated from the intestine of Crotalus horridus and other species of Brazilian snakes, such as Drymarchon corais, Boa constrictor, Corallus caninus, and Eunectes murinus (5).


Figure 2. Trichomonas acosta described by Moskovitz (1951).


The snake was treated with a single dose of 40 mg/kg (2,3) metronidazol (Flagyl®). Feces exam made 15, 30, and 45 days after treatment were negative for trichomonads.



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Address to correspondence
Centro de Estudos de Venenos e Animais Peçonhentos (CEVAP), Universidade Estadual Paulista (UNESP)
Distrito de Rúbião Junior, S/N, Caixa Postal
577 18618-000, Botucatu, São Paulo, Brasil
Phone/fax: 55 14 68026054 or 68213963

Received December 4, 2001
Accepted March 7, 2002

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