Introduction: Halicephalobus gingivalis is a free-living nematode belonging to the order Rhabditida. Commonly it is found in association with soil, manure and decaying organic matter and affects horse, zebra and humans. The etiopathogenesis is not known. A definitive diagnosis is possible in vivo by biopsy in the accessible nodular lesions or post-mortem by histology. Materials and Methods: A thirteen-year-old Koninklijk Warmbloed Paard Nederland stallion, residing in a farm in Turin province, was submitted to clinical examination after a 2-day history of a severe and rapidly progressive neurological disorder. The stallion, suspected of West Nile virus (WNV) infection, was euthanized and necropsy was performed. Head and blood samples were sent to the Neuropathology Laboratory of the Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale of Turin for investigations. Results: WNV blood testing was negative. Neuropathological findings were consistent with a verminous meningoencephalitis predominantly affecting the basal ganglia and thalamus. A large numbers of macrophages, lymphocytes, eosinophils and multinucleated giant cells formed perivascular cuffs surrounded by malacic areas infiltrated with many gitter cells and with evident axonal spheroids. Several larvae and eggs of H. gingivalis were found. Molecular and phylogenetic analyses based on the nuclear large subunit ribosomal RNA (LSU rDNA) gene are in progress. Discussion and Conclusions: The horse was native to The Netherlands and lived with other healthy horses in Italy from 2004. Probably the horse was infected after its housing in Italy. Phylogeny could help to understanding the geographic origin of the parasite and to estimate the risk for humans.
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