Thorny-headed worms (Acanthocephalids):

These parasites are closely related to the roundworms or nematodes. The adults also occur in the intestines of other vertebrates as well as birds. Waterfowl are common hosts, but the worms also infest many species of passerines and birds of prey. The adult worms are elongated or roughly cylindrical in shape and have a head armed with numerous hooks with which the worm attaches itself to the intestinal mucosa of its host.

Probably all species require one or more intermediate hosts before reaching the stage which is infective to the final host. The intermediate hosts of water birds are commonly aquatic invertebrates such as freshwater shrimps and other crustaceans, whilst those worms infesting passerines are usually terrestrial insects and other invertebrates. Heavy infestations with these worms, especially in young birds, can cause enteritis, debility and even anemia.

Treatment and control:
Satisfactory treatment is difficult, although thiabendazole has been recommended. When infestations occur, attempts should be made to restrict the bird's access to possible intermediate hosts, and thus interrupt the life cycle of the parasite.


E-Mail: berniehansen@sympatico.ca



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