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The influence of a chronic subclinical infection of Trichostrongylus colubriformis on gastrointestinal motility and digesta flow in sheep

  • P. C. Gregory (a1), G. Wenham (a1), D. Poppi (a1), R. L. Coop (a1), J. C. MacRae (a1) and S. J. Miller (a1)...


The influence of a chronic subclinicael infection of Trichostrongylus colubriformis, 2500 larvae/day for 12 weeks, on gastrointestinal motility and digesta flow was studied in 12 sheep supplied ad libitum with food and water. Motility was recorded by X-radiography and electromyography from chronically implanted electrodes;abomasal volume and outflow were estimated by dilution of CrEDTA; small intestinal transit time was estimated by passage of Phenol Red. The findings were compared with measurements made prior to infection at restricted food intake and reported separately. The first effects of infection were seen after 3–4 weeks. No animal developed diarrhoea, but food intake was progressively reduced. Small intestinal transit time, abomasal volume and half-time of marker dilution increased while abomasal outflow decreased during infection. These changes occurred both in absolute terms and when compared with values predicted from the observed level of food intake. As the animals became resistant to the parasites abomasal volume and digesta flow returned towards control values (weeks 10–12). The migrating myoelectric complex (MMC) was disrupted in only one sheep, and only transiently. In all sheep the frequency of the MMC was increased during infection and there was a progressive inhibition of abomasal, duodenal and jejunal motility. X-radiography showed there was prolonged pooling of digesta in the proximal small intestine which was cleared only at the phase of regular spiking activity. Two sheep given an anthelmintic drench recovered normal motility and clearance of digesta. It is concluded that subclinical infection of sheep with T. colubriformis alters the normal pattern of gastrointestinal motility in the absence of any diarrhoea, and causes inhibition of abomasal and proximal small intestinal motility and digesta flow. The increased frequency of MMCs helps to maintain digesta flow through the proximal small intestine.


Corresponding author

*Department of Physiology, Rowett Research Institute, Bucksburn, Aberdeen AB2 9SB.


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