Blood smears stained with Diff Quick are the initial tool for cytological diagnosis of Haemogregarina spp. However, the development of sensitive and specific molecular methods enabled the detection and identification of parasites in the sample and to clarify the evolutionary relationships of adeleorinid parasites within the Apicomplexa.
The current study was attempted in order to perform cytological investigation and molecular identification of the hemoparasites in thirty European pond turtles (Emys orbicularis) from the quarantine section at Belgrade Zoo, which have been found in poor health condition with massive skin hemorrhages, based on intraerythrocytic parasitic forms on hematological smears and 18S rDNA sequence, respectively.
Different life cycle stages of the Haemogregarina sp. were noticed within the erythrocytes in the peripheral blood. Biochemical analysis indicated lower values of AST and iron in most of the infected turtles while hematological analysis showed a changed hematocrit value, a decrease in the number of red blood cells and low hemoglobin levels. Amplifications of the 18S rDNA sequence of Haemogregarina were detected in 30/30 (100%) turtles with clinical symptoms. The identity of PCR products was confirmed by direct DNA sequencing. Future research concerning H. stepanowi in Serbia should be applied to its definitive host-the leech.