Background: Oxyspirura petrowi (Spirurida: Thelaziidae), a heteroxenous nematode of birds across the USA, may play a role in the decline of the northern bobwhite (Colinus virginianus) in the Rolling Plains Ecoregion of West Texas. Previous molecular studies suggest that crickets, grasshoppers and cockroaches serve as potential intermediate hosts of O. petrowi, although a complete study on the life-cycle of this nematode has not been conducted thus far. Consequently, this study aims to improve our understanding of the O. petrowi life-cycle by experimentally infecting house crickets (Acheta domesticus) with O. petrowi eggs, feeding infected crickets to bobwhite and assessing the life-cycle of this nematode in both the definitive and intermediate hosts.
Methods: Oxyspirura petrowi eggs were collected from gravid worms recovered from wild bobwhite and fed to house crickets. The development of O. petrowi within crickets was monitored by dissection of crickets at specified intervals. When infective larvae were found inside crickets, parasite-free pen-raised bobwhite were fed four infected crickets each. The maturation of O. petrowi in bobwhite was monitored through fecal floats and bobwhite necropsies at specified intervals.
Results: In this study, we were able to infect both crickets (n = 45) and bobwhite (n = 25) with O. petrowi at a rate of 96%. We successfully replicated and monitored the complete O. petrowi life-cycle in vivo, recovering embryonated O. petrowi eggs from the feces of bobwhite 51 days after consumption of infected crickets. All life-cycle stages of O. petrowi were confirmed in both the house cricket and the bobwhite using morphological and molecular techniques.
Conclusions: This study provides a better understanding of the infection mechanism and life-cycle of O. petrowi by tracking the developmental progress within both the intermediate and definitive host. To our knowledge, this study is the first to fully monitor the complete life-cycle of O. petrowi and may allow for better estimates into the potential for future epizootics of O. petrowi in bobwhite. Finally, this study provides a model for experimental infection that may be used in research examining the effects of O. petrowi infection in bobwhite.
Keywords: Bobwhite; Crickets; Definitive; Eyeworm; Intermediate; Life-cycle.