Halicephalobus gingivalis (H. gingivalis) causes a rare and fatal infection in horses and humans. Despite the zoonotic potential and severity of the disease, the epidemiology and pathogenesis of halicephalobiasis are still poorly understood. Several European cases of equine halicephalobiasis have been documented; however, in South-Eastern European countries, including Romania, equine neurohelminthiasis caused by H. gingivalis has not been previously described. Two Lipizzaner horses with a clinical history of progressive neurological signs were referred to the Pathology Department of the Cluj-Napoca (Romania) for necropsy. Both horses died with severe neurological signs. Gross examination and cytological, histological, and molecular analyses were performed. The stallions came from two different breeding farms. No history of traveling outside Romania was recorded. At necropsy, granulomatous and necrotizing lesions were observed in the kidneys, lymph nodes, brain, retroperitoneal adipose tissue, and lungs, indicating a systemic infection. Parasitological and histopathological analyses evidenced larval and adult forms of rhabditiform nematodes consistent with Halicephalobus species. Parasites were observed in both lymph and blood vessels of different organs and were also identified in urine samples. A subunit of the large-subunit ribosomal RNA gene (LSU rDNA) of H. gingivalis (673 bp) was amplified from lesions in both horses.
To the authors’ knowledge, this is the first report of equine systemic H. gingivalis infection in Romania and in South-Eastern Europe. Our findings provide new insights into the geographic distribution of specific genetic lineages of H. gingivalis, while also raising public health awareness, as the parasite is zoonotic.
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This paper was published under the frame of European Social Fund, Human Resources Development Operational Program 2007–2013, project no. POSDRU/159/1.5/S/136893.
Compliance with ethical standards
The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
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