Physaloptera praeputialis

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Physaloptera praeputialis von Linstow, 1889

(Figures 4-45 through 4-47)

ETYMOLOGY:Physalis = bubble and ptero = wing, along with praeputialis to describe the cuticular projection of the cuticle over the posterior end of the body.

HISTORY: This parasite was originally described by Linstow (1889) from a domestic cat in Brazil. Since that time, it has been the most commonly described species of Physaloptera reported from domestic cats, and it appears to utilize the cat as its major or sole definitive host.

GEOGRAPHIC LOCATION:Physalopterapraeputialis has been reported from cats around the world. In the Americas it has been reported from the USA (Gufstafson, 1995; Levine, 1968); and the Bahamas (Clarkson and Owen, 1959), Mexico (Zarate-Ramos et al., 1991); Venezuela (Power, 1964), Argentina (Santa-Cruz and Lombardero, 1987); and Brazil (Campos et al., 1974; Ogassawara et al., 1986). From Southeast Asia and the South Pacific, this species has been reported from cats in Hawaii (Ash, 1962); the Philippines (Tongson and San-Pablo, 1979); Japan (Hayasaki et al., 1982); Malaysia (Retnasabapathy and Khoo-Tek-San, 1970); and Australia (Barton and McEwan, 1993). From Asia and the Middle East, this parasite has been reported from cats in Iraq (Daoud et al., 1988); Iran (Mirzayans, 1972); Turkey (Burgu et al., 1985); Turkmenia USSR (Velikano and Sharpilo, 1984); and India (Gill, 1972). From Europe, the only report is from Greece (Haralampides, 1978). From Africa, the only report is from South Africa (Baker et al., 1989).

LOCATION IN HOST: Within the cat, the adults and larvae of Physalopterapraeputialis are found in the stomach, usually with their anterior end attached to the mucosa (Fig. 4-45).

PARASITE IDENTIFICATION:Physalopterapraeputialis are pink worms that are characterized by having a cuticular sheath that covers the posterior end of the body of both sexes which appears prepuce-like. The males are 1 cm to 4.5 cm in lenght; the females are 1.5 to 6 cm long. The vulva is slightly anterior to midbody. The eggs are 45 to 58 µm long and 30 to 42 µm wide. The eggs have a thick, clear shell and contain a fully formed larva when passed in the feces (Figs. 4-46 to 4-47). The eggs are very clear and are relatively easy to miss when examining a fecal specimen, especially following sugar flotations.

The species of Physaloptera described from cats fall into two groups, those with and those without preputial-like sheaths that cover the posterior of the body. Physaloptera praeputialis, Physaloptera pseudopraeputialis, and Physalopterabrevispiculum (not actually reported from the domestic cat) represent those species that have preputial-like sheaths. Physalopterarara and Physalopterapacitae represent the species without preputial-like sheaths. Only Physaloptera praeputialis and Physalopterarara have been commonly reported from the domestic cat.

LIFE CYCLE: Petri and Ameel (1950) were the first to show that an arthropod was a required part of the life cycle of Physalopterapraeputialis. Theyse authors succeeded in infecting Geman cockroaches (Blatellagermanica), camel crickets, (Ceutiphilus spp.), and field crickets with eggs from cat feces. Zago-Filho (1957 and 1962) examined development in experimentally infected crickets (Achetaassimilis),and showed that third-stage infective larvae were present in the body cavities of the critics by 23 days after infection in crickets that were held at 22ºC to 24ºC. Un cats given theses larvae, the third molt occured 45 days after infection, and the fourth molt occurred 95 days after infection. The prepatent period was 131-156 days. Cats fed larvae from from naturally infected lizards (Varanusgriseus) and the long-eared hedgehog (Hemiechinusaratus) from Turkmenia USSR were found to develop patent infections 60 days after being fed the third-stage larvae from these paratenic hosts (Velikanov and Sharpilo, 1984). Thus, it would appear that cats are more likely to be usually infected by the ingestion of these paratenic hosts than by the ingestion of the arthropod intermediate host.

CLINICAL PRESENTATION AND PATHOGENESIS: Vomiting, with vomitus containing one or more worms, is not an atypical presentation of infection with Physalopterapraeputialis. Gufstafson (1995) described two cats who had intermittent vomiting of several months duration. The adult worms were detected in the vomitus. Clinical signs included melena with anemia and eosinophilia. Zarate-Ramos et al. (1991) reported that 6 of 32 cats in Monterrey, Mexico, were infected with this parasite, and though the necropsies revealed moderate catarrhal gastritis and multiple pseudogranulomas, none of the six infected cats had been noted to have signs of gastritis before being euthanatized.

TREATMENT: Ivermectin (200 µg/kg bodyweight) was shown by Gufstafson (1995) to remove the clinical signs of Physalopterapraeputialis infection. Smith (1979) found that 2 of 44 cats that were infected with a Physaloptera spp. prior to treatment expelled their worms within 24 hours after treatment with levamisole solution injected subcutaneously at a dosage of 8 mg/kg body weight. With the levamisole, about 5% of the treated cats had side effects of vomiting and salivation for 1 to 2 hours after treatment.

EPIZOOTIOLOGY: Velikanov and Sharpilo (1984) found seven species of reptiles and three species of mammals naturally infected with the larvae of Physalopterapraeputialis. Thus, it would appear that the paratenic hosts probably play an essential role in the infection of cats.

HAZARDS TO OTHER ANIMALS: The eggs of Physalopterapraeputialis passed in the feces are infective only to arthropods. The fact that German cockroaches can serve as the intermediate host would suggest that catteries with less than perfect sanitation could serve to spread the infection between animals. Thus, with sanitation that includes arthropod control, this parasite should not pose a problem.

HAZARD TO HUMANS: Humans have on rare occasions been infected with Physaloptera, but the infections are obtained by the ingestion of the intermediate and paratenic hosts, and an infected cat in a household would thus present only a very minimal risk to its owners.

CONTROL/PREVENTION: Control requires that cats be prevented from hunting. The monthly preventatives given to cats for heartworm prevention are likely to have no effect on the larvae of this parasite if they are ingested by hunting cats.


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Figure 4-45. Physalopterapraeputialis. Adult worms in situ in the stomach of a cat at necropsy.

Figure 4-46.Physalopterapraeputialis. Eggs of this worm in a fecal flotation.

Figure 4-47.Physalopterapraeputialis. Higher power view of eggs showing the larva which is already developed at the time that the egg is passed in the feces.

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