Caroline Faircloth

San Francisco State University

“Defining the host transcriptional response to the malaria-like parasite Leucocytozoon in great horned owls (Bubo virginianus)”

Malaria and related species of the order Haemosporidia are a diverse group of blood parasites known to infect a variety of vertebrate hosts, including mammals, birds, and reptiles. This group includes Leucocytozoon, a genetically diverse and geographically widespread genus of blood parasites that only infect birds. Recent advances in genomics and transcriptomics have presented a novel opportunity to study these kinds of haemosporidian infections at a molecular level. The goal of my research is to use high-throughput RNA-sequencing to identify genes involved in the host response to Leucocytozoon and quantify changes in gene expression associated with infection. To achieve this goal, I have obtained blood samples from great horned owls (Bubo virginianus) brought into the Lindsay Wildlife Experience in Walnut Creek, California. Using comparative transcriptomics, I will quantify the difference in gene expression as well as analyze which genes are differentially expressed. This project will produce novel insights into the avian host immune response to haemosporidian infection which will help fill long-standing gaps in the knowledge of Leucocytozoon.


Leucocytozoon is a diverse genus of blood parasites that infect avian hosts across the globe. My project is an exploratory study to understand the host transcriptional response.

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