Carnivorous birds maintain parasites in the sylvatic cycle and have a role in their diffusion. The histopathology and ultrastructure of the intestine of 29 Hooded Crows (Corvus corone cornix) and 51 Eurasian Magpies (Pica pica), from the Province of Ferrara (Northern Italy), naturally infected with Sphaerirostris picae (Acanthocephala), were investigated. In both bird species, the prevalence of infection was around 10%, and the intensity of the infection in the Hooded Crows ranged from two to 12 acanthocephalans per host, whereas in the Eurasian Magpies it ranged from one to nine worms per bird. Previous records on the histopathology of acanthocephalans in birds do not provide information on the type of cells involved in the host's reaction. We aimed to gain information on the effects of acanthocephalans on the structural integrity of the birds' intestine and to describe the type of immune cells in the hosts against the parasite. Our results showed that S. picae disrupted the intestinal wall at the site of attachment by means of its neck and proboscis, and three main types of bird intestinal reactions were noticed. The most severe response of the hosts was against the proboscis because of the action of its hooks with recruitment of macrophages, giant cells, eosinophils, and heterophils. Sphaerirostris picae perforated the birds' entire intestinal wall, reaching the peritoneal visceral serosa, but it did not provoke a diffuse peritonitis.
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Vol. 57 • No. 1