Physiologists, microbiologists and veterinarians from the USA recently described an unusual case of a parasite infestation in Furcifer campani. This is probably the new discovery of an as-yet-undescribed chameleon parasite.
In 2021, 11 Furcifer campani had been imported from Madagascar as wild-caught specimens and were kept privately. Two months after importation, unusual behaviour was noticed in one male and one female of the group. The two animals basked in the sun for unusually long periods of time, specifically seeking out temperatures of 29-30°C as well as places with enormously high UV indices compared to the other chameleons. Within the next three months, both Furcifer campani visibly lost weight, although the food supply was increased and a good food intake could be observed. At the same time, a lighter skin colouration was noticed. Faecal examinations by flotation were negative. Finally, both chameleons became lethargic, and closed their eyes during the day. A bloated abdomen and increased watery faeces were observed. Both Furcifer campani died.
Histological examination confirmed muscle atrophy and cachexia. Massive infiltration of the liver and gastrointestinal tract with large amounts of spores could be detected in both chameleons. The spores proved positive in Grocott’s methenamine-based silver stain and the PAS stain. Morphologically, the spores were classified as Dermocystidium-like. Investigations by PCR revealed a high similarity with Dermocystidium salmonis, but the exact pathogen could not be determined with certainty.
The genus Dermocystidum is a parasitic microorganism that is classified as a protist (it is neither a fungus nor an animal or plant). It is interesting that they have so far been known mainly from fish and amphibians, occasionally also from mammals. So far, not a single case of infestation with Dermocystidium has been described from reptiles. It could therefore be an undescribed, new species that is possibly even chameleon-specific. Effective therapy is not yet known.
A unique disease presentation associated with a mesomycetozoean-like organism in the jeweled chameleon (Furcifer campani)
Michael Nash, Emily A. McDermott, Ashley K. McGrew, Juan Muñoz, Dayna Willems
Journal of Herpetological Medicine and Surgery, February 2023