Dictyocaulus spp. infections are common in North American cervids, with Dictyocaulus viviparus described as most common. A Rocky Mountain elk (Cervus canadensis nelsoni) was found dead in Wyoming, US with significant bronchitis and pneumonia. In the bronchi and trachea, numerous large nematodes were found and grossly identified as Dictyocaulus spp. lungworms. Macroscopic alterations, such as distended interlobular septa and edema with foam and mucus observed on cut surface and in trachea and bronchi, were consistent with those commonly described in D. viviparus infections. Female lungworms were identified to Dictyocaulus spp. level via morphologic examination and molecular analyses based on mitochondrial cyclooxygenase 1 and 18S ribosomal RNA genes. A phylogenetic analysis was conducted employing the maximum likelihood method. Based on both morphologic and genetic assays, the isolated lungworms were most likely a strain of Dictyocaulus cervi. Within the female adult worms, free first stage larvae were observed besides worm eggs, which had not been described for Dictyocaulus spp. Phylogenetic analysis revealed that our parasites clustered closely with D. cervi, forming a subclade with that species within a larger clade that includes Dictyocaulus eckerti. While the elk tested positive for chronic wasting disease, it is assumed that significant pathology in the present case was caused directly by infection with the D. cervi-like lungworm, not previously described in North America.
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Vol. 57 • No. 1