Eastern Tent Caterpillar Setae in Digestive Tract of Mare

Hair remnants, resembling Eastern tent caterpillar (ETC) setae (hair-like projections on the outside of the caterpillar), were found embedded in the submucosa of the digestive tract of one mare fed ETC larvae. Examination of this mare represents the initial step of a controlled experiment with the purpose of investigating the role of the ETC exoskeleton (cuticle) in MRLS (see also Deductive Investigation of the Causes of Mare Reproductive Loss Syndrome: Experiment 4, June 6, 2003).

The setae-like fragments are similar to those found in gilts fed ETC in a previous experiment. Two of the five gilts fed ETC had fetal loss (see Eastern Tent Caterpillars Cause Abortions in Pregnant Pigs, Sept 5, 2003). In both this mare and the affected gilts, presence of setae were associated with an inflammatory reaction. No such fragments were found in gilts not fed ETC.

We emphasize that this observation is for one non-pregnant mare, and that these findings must be verified in larger-scale, controlled trials. Our experiments are funded through the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture and USDA:ARS.

Karen McDowell, Veterinary Science
Neil Williams, Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center
Mike Donahue, Livestock Disease Diagnostic Center
Bruce Webb, Entomology
Kyle Newman, Venture Laboratories
Bert Lynn, Chemistry
University of Kentucky

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