Dirofilaria scapiceps was found between the synovial sheath and tendons, i.e., within the tendon sheath, in the ankle region of eastern cottontail rabbits (Sylvilagus floridanus) and snowshoe hares (Lepus americanus). In cottontail rabbits, tendons and sheaths appeared normal and all worms were adults. Only one (4%) of 24 infected rabbits contained dead worms. All female worms were gravid in rabbits killed in late winter or early spring. Microfilaremias in rabbits were high (approximately 30–100 microfilariae/60 μl blood) and of long duration (at least 8–28 mo), and rabbits were considered normal hosts of D. scapiceps. In some snowshoe hares, tendons and sheaths also appeared normal; however, in other hares a chronic proliferative tenosynovitis, characterized by fibrinous exudate, hyperplasia and hypertrophy of the intima and inflammatory cell (predominantly lymphocytes and plasma cells) infiltration of the intimal and fibrous layers of the synovial sheath led to encapsulation of worms. Dead subadult, dead adult, and live adult worms were found in the ankles of hares; 86 (46%) of 186 infected hares contained some or only dead worms. Fibrosis commonly occurred around dead worms. Dead subadults were also found in subcutaneous connective tissues over the trunk of the body. Degenerate embryos and amorphous material were observed in uteri of some female worms in hares killed in late winter or early spring. Few (1–5 microfilariae/60 μl blood) or no microfilariae were observed in the peripheral blood of hares and microfilaremias were of short duration (less than 8 mo). Microfilariae in hares are probably trapped and destroyed in the chronic inflammatory lesions in the tendon sheaths since normal, degenerate, and calcified microfilariae were observed in the capsules around adult worms. Some microfilariae might also be destroyed in lymph nodes. Although D. scapiceps can be maintained within snowshoe hare populations, hares are considered abnormal hosts of D. scapiceps. Dirofilaria scapiceps may have spread from cottontail rabbits to snowshoe hares relatively recently.
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