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pathogenic fungi and microsporidia

Hampton Carson hampton at hawaii.edu
Wed Jul 11 15:58:29 EST 2001

Dear Amy:

Frequently when collecting wild species of Hawaiian Drosophila,
particularly in high-rainfall areas, we have encountered the
"fluffy-fungus". This, to my knowledge, has not been observed in lab
cultures, but I am copying this message to Ken Kaneshiro and he may
remember more about this. Our collections are usually made by imprisoning
the large single flies under a shell vial from sponges saturated with bait
and placed on trees or ferns in the forest. Each fly is  individually kept
in isolation before concentrating and returnng the flies to the laboratory.
In more than one instance, I have seen a healthy-looking picture-winged fly
start to stagger around and then fall to the bottom of the vial. Almost
immediately, I have watched thru a hand-lens while the "fluffy flimanents"
grow out in a halo around the dying specimen.

Ken and I did mention this to various pathologists but I do not remember
whether any papers on this infection were published.  Ken might know.

I had the feeling that some batches of bait (fermented mushrooms or banana
seemed to be connected with this, as we could observe fuzzy corpses of
flies which appeared to have died near the bait. The methods of preparing
the baits are totally uncontrolled and contamination with fungus spores is
surely possible.

With regard to microsporidia: long ago in St. Louis collections we ran into
a microsporidian infection (confirmed only by observing spores in some
specimens). We reported this in Drosophila Information Service, sometime in
the 1940'S or early '50s. I don't have the reference in front of me but if
you want it you can email me back.  I recall that a protozoologist at
Illinois identified it for us. This was a lab infection that spread rapidly
through our cultures and we reported it as "A Serious Parasite . . ."

With best regards,

Hamp Carson

>Does anyone know of a fungus that infects Drosophila? I am looking for
>fungal isolates that are pathogenic to either adults or larvae (or both).
>Has anyone noticed "fluffy" fungus-infected flies when out collecting, or
>have your lab cultures sucumbed to infection (in the flies rather than the
>Also does anyone know whether microsporidia are generally pathogenic to
>Drosophila and how widespread they are?
>Amy Sanders,
>PhD student,
>Imperial College, UK

Hampton L. Carson, Professor Emeritus
Department of Cell and Molecular Biology
University of Hawaii.
Home Address: 1314 Kalakaua Ave. Apt. 1111
Honolulu, HI 96826-1927
Home Telephone (808) 983-4522
Home Fax (808) 983-4495


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