Reasons for performing study: Eosinophilic granulocytes have been associated with parasite or immune-mediated diseases, but their functions in other disease processes remain unclear. Cause and timing of eosinophil migration into the equine gastrointestinal mucosa are also unknown. Objective: To determine the effects of intestinal parasitism on eosinophils in equine large intestinal mucosa. Methods: Large intestinal mucosal samples were collected from horses and ponies (n = 16) from the general veterinary hospital population, ponies (n = 3) raised in a parasite-free environment, ponies experimentally infected with 500 infective Strongylus vulgaris larvae and treated with a proprietary anthelmintic drug (n = 14), and a similar group of ponies (n = 7) that received no anthelmintic treatment. Total eosinophil counts and eosinophil distribution in the mucosa were determined by histological examination. A mixed model analysis was performed and appropriate Bonferroni adjusted P values used for each family of comparisons. P<0.05 was considered significant. Results: There was no difference in large intestinal mucosal eosinophil counts and eosinophil distribution between ponies infected with S. vulgaris and those raised in a parasite-free environment. Experimental infection with S. vulgaris, with or without subsequent anthelmintic treatment, did not change eosinophil counts, and counts were similar to those for horses from the general population. Conclusions: Migration of eosinophils to the equine large intestinal mucosa appears to be independent of exposure to parasites. Large intestinal mucosal eosinophils may have more functions in addition to their role in defence against parasites. Potential relevance: Exposure to intestinal parasites is not a prerequisite for the presence of mucosal eosinophils in equine large intestine.
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