Influence of Trichinelle zimbabwensis infection intensity on predilection sites, blood biochemical values and humoral immune response in experimentally infected Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus)
The zoonotic potential of Trichinella zimbabwensis as supported by the clinical symptoms observed in experimentally infected, non-human primates (Mukaratirwa et al., 2001) necessitates research aimed at elucidating the distribution and epidemiology of this parasite. No controlled studies have been conducted to determine the predilection muscles of Trichinella zimbabwensis larvae in Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus) or the influence of infection intensity on the distribution of the larvae in crocodiles. Neither has the influence of Trichinella zimbabwensis on biochemical parameters in crocodiles been assessed previously. To determine the distribution patterns of Trichinella zimbabwensis larvae and predilection muscles and to assess the influence on selected biochemical parameters, fifteen crocodiles were randomly divided into three cohorts of five animals each to represent high infection (642 larvae/kg of body weight), medium infection (414 larvae/kg of bodyweight) and low infection (134 larvae/kg of bodyweight) cohorts. In the high infection cohort, high percentages of larvae were observed in the tricep muscles (26%) and hind limb muscles (13%). In the medium infection cohort, high percentages of larvae were found in the tricep muscles (50%), sternomastoid (18%) and hind limb muscles (13%). For the low infection cohort, larvae were mainly found in the intercostal muscles (36%), longissimus complex (27%), forelimb muscles (20%), and hind limb muscles (10%). Predilection muscles in the high and medium infection cohorts were similar to those reported in naturally infected crocodiles despite changes in infection intensity. The high infection cohort had significantly higher numbers of larvae in the intercostal, longissimus complex, external tibial flexor, longissimus caudalis and caudal femoral muscles (P < 0.05) compared to the medium infection cohort. In comparison to the low infection cohort, the high infection cohort harboured significantly higher numbers of larvae in all muscles (P < 0.05) except for the tongue and pterygoid. The high infection cohort harboured significantly higher numbers of larvae (P < 0.05) in the sternomastoid, tricep, intercostal, longissimus complex, external tibial flexor, longissimus caudalis and caudal femoral muscles compared to naturally infected crocodiles. The importance of host characteristics in determining predilection and the importance of leg musculature as a predilection site for Trichinella spp. in sylvatic carnivores were both confirmed in this study. Deviations from normal parameters of blood glucose, alanine transaminase (ALT), aspartate transaminase (AST), creatine phosphokinase (CPK) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) compared to observations in uninfected reptiles were observed. Hypoglycaemia was not observed in the infected groups in this study. The humoral immune response to Trichinella zimbabwensis infection was evaluated in all three groups by way of indirect ELISA. Peak values of blood glucose, LDH and AST were observed on day 56, 49 and 42 p.i. in the high, medium and low infection cohorts respectively. CPK values peaked on day 35 p.i. in all three cohorts. Peak ALT values were reached on day 56 in the high infection cohort and on day 28 p.i. in both the medium and low infection cohorts. No correlations between the biochemical parameters and infection intensity were observed. Peak antibody titres were reached on day 49 p.i. in the medium infection cohort and on day 42 p.i. in both the high and low infection cohorts. Infection intensity could not be correlated with the magnitude of the humoral immune response or time to seroconversion. The effect of infection intensity on time to seroconversion, magnitude and persistence of the humoral immune response was assessed. No significant differences in the titre levels between the three groups were observed. Infection intensity could not be correlated with the magnitude of the humoral response or time to seroconversion. Results of this study were in agreement with results reported in mammals (wild boars and horses) infected with other Trichinella species and showed that antibody titres could not be detected indefinitely.