Capillaria (Capillary or Thread Worms)

There are several species of Capillaria that occur in poultry. Capillaria annulata and Capillaria contorta occur in the crop and esophagus. These may cause thickening and inflammation of the mucosa, and occasionally severe losses are sustained in turkeys and game birds.

In the lower intestinal tract there may be several different species but usually Capillaria obsignata is the most prevalent. The life cycle of this parasite is direct. The adult worms may be embedded in the lining of the intestine. The eggs are laid and passed in the droppings. Following embryonation that takes six to eight days, the eggs are infective to any other poultry that may eat them. The most severe damage occurs within two weeks of infection. The parasites frequently produce severe inflammation and sometimes cause hemorrhage. Erosion of the intestinal lining may be extensive and result in death. These parasites may become a severe problem in deep litter houses. Reduced growth, egg production and fertility may result from heavy infections.

If present in large numbers, these parasites are usually easy to find at necropsy. Eggs may be difficult to find in droppings, due to the small size and time of infection.

Since treatment for capillaria is often lacking, control is best achieved by preventive measures. Some drugs, fed at low levels, may be of value in reducing the level of infection on problem farms. Game birds should be raised on wire to remove the threat of infection. As some species of capillaria have an indirect life cycle, control measures may have to be directed toward the intermediate host. Hygromycin and meldane may be used for control. Additional vitamin A may be of value. Effective treatments that are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration are fenbendazole and leviamisole.

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