Aspects of the migratory life cycle and pathogenesis of Elaphostrongylus cervi were studied in red deer (Cervus elaphus) using 2 farmed calves experimentally infected with 450 third-stage larvae killed 40 and 45 days postinfection and using 3 wild calves and 3 wild yearlings with natural infections killed during autumn hunting. A full necropsy was carried out on the experimental calves, but only the head, eviscerated carcass, and lungs were examined from the naturally infected animals. Histological examination included extensive studies of the central nervous system (CNS), spinal nerve roots, and lungs. The experimental calves had prepatent infections, with many immature adult nematodes in the CNS, whereas the wild calves showed CNS lesions indicating a very recent E. cervi infection. The yearlings had patent infections, with many mature E. cervi in their skeletal muscles, reflecting acquisition of infection during the previous summer. Our findings showed that E. cervi develop to the adult stage in the CNS (subarachnoid spaces) and subsequently migrate into the skeletal muscles, where the mature nematodes live in reproductive pairs and groups. In the nervous system, the nematode caused encephalomyelitis, focal encephalomalacia and gliosis, meningitis, radiculitis, ganglionitis, and perineuritis.
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