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Spatial and discrimination learning in rodents infected with the nematode Strongyloides ratti

  • V. A. BRAITHWAITE (a1), D. J. SALKELD (a1), H. M. McADAM (a1), C. G. HOCKINGS (a1), A. M. LUDLOW (a1) and A. F. READ (a1)...

Abstract

Recent work has shown that mice with subclinical parasitic infections suffer impaired spatial learning and memory, as assayed in an open-field water maze. Although the mechanism underlying this effect is not clear, the phenomenon has been reported following infection with both a protozoan parasite (Eimeria vermiformis) and a gastrointestinal nematode (Heligmosomoides polygyrus). In a variety of experiments, we examined the effects of a different gastrointestinal nematode, Strongyloides ratti, on the ability of rats and mice to learn a spatial or a discrimination task. Animals were tested at various stages post-infection, with different levels of infection, using different lines of S. ratti and with varying experimental protocols. All animals learned the tasks, but we found no evidence of an effect of S. ratti infection on learning or memory. Even rats infected with approximately 5000 S. ratti larvae, a dose which has an impact on rat body size, showed no deficit in learning ability. Various reasons for the conflict between our results and those previously reported for E. vermiformis and H. polygyrus are discussed. Our results show that impaired learning and memory following parasitic infection is not a ubiquitous or at least easily replicated phenomenon.

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Corresponding author: Tel: +44 131 650 5448. Fax: +44 131 667 3210. E-mail: vab@holyrood.ed.ac.uk

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