Morphological and quantitative analysis of leukocytes in free-living Australian black flying foxes (Pteropus alecto)


The black flying fox (Pteropus alecto) is a natural reservoir for Hendra virus, a paramyxovirus that causes fatal infections in humans and horses in Australia. Increased excretion of Hendra virus by flying foxes has been hypothesized to be associated with physiological or energetic stress in the reservoir hosts. The objective of this study was to explore the leukocyte profiles of wild-caught P. alecto, with a focus on describing the morphology of each cell type to facilitate identification for clinical purposes and future virus spillover research. To this end, we have created an atlas of images displaying the commonly observed morphological variations across each cell type. We provide quantitative and morphological information regarding the leukocyte profiles in bats captured at two roost sites located in Redcliffe and Toowoomba, Queensland, Australia, over the course of two years. We examined the morphology of leukocytes, platelets, and erythrocytes of P. alecto using cytochemical staining and characterization of blood films through light microscopy. Leukocyte profiles were broadly consistent with previous studies of P. alecto and other Pteropus species. A small proportion of individual samples presented evidence of hemoparasitic infection or leukocyte morphological traits that are relevant for future research on bat health, including unique large granular lymphocytes. Considering hematology is done by visual inspection of blood smears, examples of the varied cell morphologies are included as a visual guide. To the best of our knowledge, this study provides the first qualitative assessment of P. alecto leukocytes, as well as the first set of published hematology reference images for this species.


© 2022 Hansen et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. cc-by



Hansen, D., Hunt, B.E., Falvo, C.A., Ruiz-Aravena, M., Kessler, M.K., Hall, J., Thompson, P., Rose, K., Jones, D.N., Lunn, T.J., Dale, A.S., Peel, A.J., & Plowright, R.K.. 2022. Morphological and quantitative analysis of leukocytes in free-living Australian black flying foxes (Pteropus alecto). PLoS ONE, 17(5 May).