Infection of avian malaria parasites is a general problem for both wild and domestic birds. Most infected birds exhibit suppressed immunity, poor productivity and high mortality. Despite this concern, there are limited studies on haemosporidian parasites in free-ranging domestic birds in Africa and its subregions. The aim of this study is to investigate the distribution, prevalence and diversity of haemosporidian parasites among free-ranging domestic birds in Uganda. Blood samples were collected from free-ranging chickens (n=304), ducks (n=70), turkeys (n=14), and guinea fowl (n=19) and screened for haemosporidian parasites. Microscopy and PCR approaches were used to detect and identify parasites based on morphological characteristics and a 600-900 bp amplified fragment of Cytochrome b (cyt b). We detected Haemoproteus (17.25%, n=69), Plasmodium (22%, n=88) and Leucocytozoon (1.75%, n=7) in the sampled birds. The sequences from these genera were nested within their respective clades in a phylogenetic tree constructed using sequences from the MalAvi database. Our study showed that free-ranging domestic birds habour haemosporidian parasites in Uganda thus providing insight for more conscious management practice in poultry systems to prevent widespread infection of the parasites.
Key words: avian malaria, birds, ecosystem, haemosporidia, Uganda