A juvenile, female North American opossum (Didelphis virginiana) died of verminous pneumonia caused by Didelphostrongylus haysei despite aggressive treatment with oral fenbendazole, corticosteroids, and antibiotics. This prompted a retrospective study of lungworm infection in opossums, during which 19 additional necropsy reports from opossums were reviewed. Including the subject of this report, a total of 11 (55%) of these cases included a diagnosis of lungworm infection. This diagnosis was considered to have contributed to death in eight out of the 11 cases (73%). Histologically, 10 of the 11 (91%) opossums had granulomatous bronchopneumonia with small to moderate numbers of adult nematodes in the airways and parenchyma. Four of the 11 (36%) opossums had free larvae within the parenchyma or terminal airways. Inflammation was usually associated with larvae, degenerating parasites, and nonintact adult nematodes. Superimposed bacterial pneumonia was evident in three animals, and sections of lung examined from all the opossums were characterized by moderate to severe smooth-muscle hyperplasia in airways, including terminal respiratory bronchioles and alveolar ducts. Nine animals had prominent medial smooth-muscle hyperplasia in small- and medium-sized arterioles. Lesions in other organs, particularly in liver, heart, and gastrointestinal tract, were frequently identified. Three animals had concomitant septicemia or bacterial bronchopneumonia (or both), which contributed to the cause of death. Seven animals had gastric nematodosis (Physaloptera sp.), although three of them had been treated with a 14-day course of fenbendazole.
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Vol. 33 • No. 2