The horse is considered an aberrant host for the nematode parasite Trichinella spiralis, and many aspects of the biology and epidemiology of Trichinella infection in the horse are poorly understood. It has been reported that experimentally-infected horses produce a transient serological response to infection and that muscle larvae are cleared more rapidly than in parasite-adapted hosts such as the pig and humans. However, limited numbers of animals have been studied, and both the longevity of larvae in horse musculature and the immune response to Trichinella larvae remain unclear. In this study, we infected 35 horses with 1000, 5000, or 10,000 T. spiralis muscle larvae and followed the course of infection for 1 year, assessing larval burdens in selected muscles, the condition and infectivity of recovered larvae, and the serological response of infected horses. The results demonstrated that T. spiralis establishes infection in horses in a dose dependent manner. Anti-Trichinella IgG antibodies peaked between weeks 6-10 post-inoculation. Viable, infective larvae persisted in horse musculature for the duration of the study (12 months), and exhibited no apparent reduction in muscle burdens over this period. Encapsulated larvae showed no obvious signs of degeneration in histological sections. Larval capsules were surrounded by infiltrates consisting of mature plasma cells and eosinophils. Macrophages were notably absent. Given the lack of a detectable serological response by 26 weeks p.i. and the persistence of infective muscle larvae for at least 1 year, parasite recovery methods are currently the only suitable detection assays for both meat inspection and epidemiological studies of Trichinella infection in the horse.
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