Equids can be infected by a range of skin-dwelling filarial nematodes, including four species of the genus Onchocerca. Current literature on equine onchocercosis is fragmentary and often limited to isolated case reports. The present study aimed to describe a clinical case of equine onchocercosis caused by Onchocerca boehmi (Supperer, 1953) (syn. Elaeophora boehmi) in an 8-year-old gelding Belgian show jumper from northern Italy. The horse was presented with a firm and painless mass on the proximal third of the right metacarpal region. Ultrasound examination showed a peritendinous enlargement around the palmaro-lateral area of the tendons, characterized by an elongated hypoechoic and well-defined structure, embedding a coiled hyperechoic line. The metacarpal nodule was resected and histologically examined. Fragments of a parasitic nematode were detected, isolated and examined. The morphological analysis allowed identifying the nematode as O. boehmi. In addition, total genomic DNA was extracted from individual fragments using a commercial kit for the nematode identification and a comparative sequence analysis of the nematode cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) sequence with data available in the GenBankTM database revealed the closest identity (i.e. 91 %) with that of Onchocerca lupi. Thus far, O. boehmi has only been reported in Austria and Iran, and information about its life-cycle and vectors is lacking. The systematic position of this species within the genus Onchocerca, not in Elaeophora where it was originally described, is in concordance with the morphological and molecular analysis. In this article, we describe the first autochthonous case of equine onchocercosis in Italy caused by O. boehmi and discuss novel parasitological, clinical, and pathological data on these pathogens of horses.
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The scanning electron microscope study was supported by the Bulgarian National Endowment Fund “13 Centuries Bulgaria”. Authors would like to thank Prof. Anja Joachim (UVMV) for lending the voucher material.
Conflict of interest statement
The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.
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Lia, R.P., Mutafchiev, Y., Veneziano, V. et al. Filarial infection caused by Onchocerca boehmi (Supperer, 1953) in a horse from Italy. Parasitol Res 116, 191–198 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00436-016-5277-x