Pteropid bats harbour a diversity of haemosporidian parasites, but associated disease has not been reported previously. The best known of the pteropid haemosporidia are several species of Hepatocystis, which also occur in rodents and primates1. Recently two new monospecific genera, Sprattiella alecto and Johnsprentia copemani, have been described from black flying foxes (Pteropus alecto) in Queensland2,3. Hepatocystis, Johnsprentia and Spratiella have schizonts within the liver, lung and kidney respectively, but no significant pathology has been attributed to their presence. At this laboratory small numbers of unidentified haemosporidial schizonts are sporadically seen in the lungs of both black and little red flying foxes (LRFF), Pteropus scapulatus, during the course of disease investigations; they are generally considered an incidental finding. However haemosporidial schizonts were associated with granulomatous, eosinophilic pneumonia observed in a series of six LRFF from southeast Queensland during March - May 2014.
In these cases, schizonts of variable morphology were present within lungs of all six bats, most frequently within blood vessels. Inflammation was angiocentric, varied from eosinophilic to granulomatous, and often spread into adjacent alveoli. Pneumonia was deemed mild in half of these bats and moderate to severe in half. Protozoal schizonts were somewhat similar to Johnsprentia copemani. They varied from round to oval to sinuous, and from a minimum diameter of 21µ up to 150µ or more in length. Using fresh lung from two LRFF, a 486bp portion of the cytochrome b gene was amplified by PCR and sequenced1. 99% identity was obtained with a parasite described as “Hepatocystis sp.” from Pteropus vampyrus in Malaysia. Attempts to characterise these parasites continue.