Nematodes of the family Habronematidae are intestinal parasites of birds and mammals. The mammals are mostly equids (horses, ponies, donkeys, zebras) where the skin, eye and intestine may be infected; the condition is known as habronemosis.
The adult worms live under the mucous layer with their heads embedded in the mucosal spaces in the stomach. Commonly, first-stage larvae (from eggs produced by the adults) are found in host feces. Larvae of Habronema muscae develop to the infective stage in larvae and pupae of the housefly Musca domestica. Equines probably become infected by swallowing flies that fall into water or food. Larvae in ingested flies are liberated into the host stomach and grow to maturity within 2 months. The main effect of Habronema in the stomach is to stimulate hyperplasia and hypertrophy of the mucus-secreting cells and secretion of large amounts of thick, stringy, mucus. Effects on the host include gastritis, ulcers, diarrhea and weight loss have been reported in association with H. muscae infection (Naem, 2007).
|SEM of anterior of female Habronema muscae. Llip = two trilobed lateral lips (Llip), CP= four sub-median cephalic papillae, A= amphidal apertures.||SEM of the posterior end of male Habronema muscae. CA= caudal alae, S=spicule, CR=cuticular ridges.|
|Scanning electron micrographs from Naem (2007)|
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