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