The emerald tree boa (Corallus caninus) is a non-venomous, strictly nocturnal and arboreal species found in the rainforests of South America. It spends its days in a characteristic coil over a tree branch with its head perched at the center. They are a popular snake although reported to be moderately difficult to maintain.
The genus Hepatozoon is comprised of a large assemblage of apicomplexan blood parasites.1 The general life cycle involves ingestion of the insect vector (mosquitoes) and experimentally via infected rodents, release of the sporozoite, and circulation to various organs.2 Generally once they enter the liver, the sporozoite form schizonts within the parenchymal cells. Several rounds of merozoites released from mature schizonts reenter hepatocytes until the final generation which produces merozoites that enter mononuclear leukocytes. Infections are generally considered incidental in the natural host.1,3
Two emerald tree boas were rescued from improper care. The husbandry was improved; however, the male remained underweight. He developed diarrhea that progressed to open-mouth breathing before dying. On histology large numbers of protozoal meronts were identified in the pulmonary interstitium and associated with a granulomatous nephritis. The results of this case suggest that Hepatozoon is capable of inducing inflammatory lesions in some reptilian hosts. Stress from improper husbandry, poor body condition, or concurrent diseases may result in more significant lesions.
1. Jacobson ER. Parasites and parasitic diseases of reptiles. In: Jacobson ER, ed. Infectious Diseases and Pathology of Reptiles: Color Atlas and Text. Boca Raton, FL; CRC Press:579–580.
2. Sloboda M, Kamler M, Bulantova J, Votapka J, Modra D. Rodents as intermediate hosts of Hepatozoon ayorgbor (Apicomplexa: Adeleina: Hepatozoidae) from the African ball python, Python regius? Folia Parasitol (Praha). 2008;55(1):13–16.
3. Wozniak EJ, Telford SR Jr, DeNardo DF, McLaughlin GL, Butler JF. Granulomatous hepatitis associated with Hepatozoon sp. meronts in a southern water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris). J Zoo Wildl Med. 1998;29(1):68–71