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Fatal infection in two Icelandic stallions caused by Halicephalobus gingivalis (Nematoda: Rhabditida)

Veterinary Parasitology
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2011.11.024
  • Halicephalobus Gingivalis
  • Infection
  • Horses
  • Iceland
  • Medicine


Abstract Opportunistic infections with the free living nematode Halicephalobus gingivalis are infrequently reported in horses but the cases are widespread geographically. The nematodes are believed to penetrate wounds and subsequently reproduce within the host tissues. This paper reports two cases of a fatal disease in stallions of the Icelandic breed in Iceland. Case 1: a stallion, which sustained injuries to the mouth after an accident, developed severe neurological signs and had to be euthanatized. Histological examination revealed mild inflammation and malacia in the cerebellum associated with the presence of numerous H. gingivalis nematodes. Case 2: a stallion that started swerving to one side and lost balance was euthanatized due to lack of response to therapy and rapid deterioration. Histological examination revealed numerous H. gingivalis nematodes in the cerebellum, brain stem, cervical spinal cord and in the meninges, with minimal reactive changes. In case 1 the infection presumably was acquired by nematodes from soil penetrating through wounds in the mouth. The mode of the H. gingivalis infection in case 2 is uncertain. These are the first cases of H. gingivalis infection reported from Iceland and the second report from the Nordic countries.

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