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Equine amnionitis and fetal loss: Mare abortion following experimental exposure to Processionary caterpillars (Ochrogaster lunifer)




Reasons for performing study: In Australia, there have been recent reports of unusual abortions in mid- to late-gestation mares. These were clinically distinct from other recognised causes of pregnancy loss and the term ‘equine amnionitis and fetal loss’ (EAFL) was adopted to describe this syndrome. Initial investigations concluded that possible causal factors included the presence on affected stud farms of Processionary caterpillars (Ochrogaster lunifer).

Objectives: To determine if exposure of pregnant mares to Processionary caterpillars or their shed exoskeletons can induce EAFL.

Methods: Processionary caterpillars and their shed exoskeletons were collected and stored frozen. Mid-gestation mares were dosed with a slurry of caterpillars or shed exoskeleton by nasogastric intubation. Their clinical responses and times to abortion were recorded. All aborted fetuses were autopsied and samples taken for bacteriological and virological culture and histopathology.

Results: Intubating mares in mid-pregnancy with preparations of either whole Processionary caterpillars or shed caterpillar exoskeletons induced abortion with few impending clinical signs. The gross pathological and bacteriological findings of the aborted fetuses were similar to those observed in field cases of EAFL.

Potential relevance: Possible exposure to Processionary caterpillars should be considered when examining cases of fetal loss in the mare. The present results provide a starting point to further explore the aetiology and pathogenesis of EAFL.

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