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Anorexia in rats infected with the nematode, Nippostrongylus brasiliensis: experimental manipulations

  • J. G. MERCER (a1), P. I. MITCHELL (a2) (a3), K. M. MOAR (a1), A. BISSETT (a2), S. GEISSLER (a2), K. BRUCE (a2) and L. H. CHAPPELL (a2)...


Nippostrongylus brasiliensis induces a biphasic anorexia in laboratory rats, the first phase coincident with lung invasion (ca day 2) and the second when the worms mature in the intestine (ca day 8). Using the anthelminthic, mebendazole (MBZ), N. brasiliensis infections of the rat were eliminated between the first and second anorexic episodes. This intervention prevented the expression of the second phase of anorexia. Rats exposed to a second infection with N. brasiliensis, 3 weeks after the primary infection, exhibited only a first phase anorexic response which was not influenced by MBZ termination of the primary infection. The lower cumulative food intake and weight gain of all infected rats after 8 days of infection were accompanied by elevated plasma insulin and, in some individuals, by elevated plasma leptin, compared with uninfected controls and previously-infected MBZ-treated rats. Messenger RNA levels for neuropeptide Y were higher in the hypothalamic arcuate nucleus of 8-day infected rats than in recovering MBZ-treated animals. Inoculation of rats with heat-killed N. brasiliensis larvae failed to induce anorexia and did not alter the severity of biphasic anorexia on subsequent injection of viable larvae. The first anorexic episode is therefore dependent upon viable migrating larvae. The second phase of anorexia clearly requires the continuing presence of the parasite beyond the lung phase. Viable migrating larvae are also required to confer ‘resistance’ to reinfection.


Corresponding author

Corresponding author: Molecular Neuroendocrinology Group, Rowett Research Institute, Aberdeen, Scotland AB21 9SB, UK. Tel: +44 1224 716662. Fax: +44 1224 716653. E-mail:



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