Loughborough University
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Sarconema eurycerca (Wehr): the heartworm of swans and the role of Trinoton anserinum (F) as an intermediate host

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posted on 2010-10-18, 11:14 authored by Sharon Cohen
All filarial nematodes of the family Onchocercidae are parasites of vertebrates and require intermediate insect hosts for completion of their life-cycles. Eighteen genera within this family are known to infect birds but very few of the associated intermediate hosts have been elucidated. Sarconema eurycerca (Wehr) is a filarial nematode of swans and geese. A recent study of S. eurycerca in American Whistling Swans (Cygnus c. columbianus ) has demonstrated that the intermediate insect host is a feather louse, Trinoton anserinum (Fabricius) (Seegar, 1977). The main aim of the present study was to investigate the relationship between S. eurycerca and British swans and to determine whether T. anserinum is the intermediate host of the parasite in this country. A total of 1128 swans (of all species) were examined from sites in Britain, Denmark and Iceland. Infected swans were detected by examining blood samples for larval stages of S. eurycerca (microfilariae) using a new sedimentation technique developed in the study. An overall incidence of 15.0% was recorded with a significantly higher proportion of juvenile swans being infected. The microfilariae of S. eurycerca exhibited a diurnal sub-periodic rhythm within the host, with maximum counts occurring between 11.00 and 19.00 hours in the peripheral blood supply. T. anserinum was found to satisfy all the attributes required of an intermediate insect host. As an obligate ectoparasite, T. anserinum has a close spatial and temporal relationship with the swan. T. anserinum appears to be capable of ingesting microfilarie of S. eurycerca whilst feeding on blood. All developing larval stages of S. eurycerca were found in T. anserinum and the louse was very mobile and capable of transmitting the nematode from one swan to another. Examinations were made of the nematode, its morphology and pathological effects on both heart tissue and blood components of the swan. Significantly higher lymphocyte percentages and lower eosinophil percentages, haematocrit and red blood corpuscle counts were recorded in swans infected with S. eurycerca.



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© Sharon Cohen

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A Doctoral Thesis. Submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the award of Doctor of Philosophy of Loughborough University.

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