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Parasitología al día

versión impresa ISSN 0716-0720

Parasitol. día v.24 n.1-2 Santiago ene. 2000 

Longevity of Musca domestica L. (Diptera: Muscidae)
parasitized by
Habronema muscae Carter (Nematoda:



The present work had as objective to evidence the influence of the parasite Habronema muscae on the Musca domestica longevity. Muscids larvae belonging to second generation, with aproximately 30 h old, were submitted to infection in artificial diet, in which were inoculated H. muscae eggs, obtained from maceration of female helminths. The muscid larvae and pupae were mantained in artificial chamber at 27° C, 60 ± 10% RH and 14 h of photophase. After emergence, the adults were distributed in screen cages, The number of dead muscids were conferred daily, with posterior dissection and ratification of infective nematode larvae. The mean intensity of infection was 3.11 infective larvae per muscid (range: 0-14) in the infected group. The infected group showed a significative reduction on mean longevity, when compared with the control (25.0 and 32.5 days, respectively). There was no difference between mean longevity from male and female dipterous.
Key words: experimental infection; Habronema muscae; longevity; Musca domestica; vector.


Among the helminths commonly found in equids, the habronematids reveal their importance because can provoke gastric lesions and also the denominated "summer sore", related to the erratic cicle of the three species wich compose that family. The active participation of muscid flies as biologic vectors of the species included in genus Habronema Carter, 1861 (Nematoda: Habronematidae) is fundamental for the dissemination of this pathogens.

This nematode group has shown peculiar epizootiological characteristics, assuming high prevalence and abundance at several geographic regions, fact uncommon among spirurides of domesticated animals.

The specializated literature presents sufficient studies to understand the biomorfological development of this nematode in its intermediate host,1, 2 as well as the stimulus to infectant larvae to leave the dipterous mouth parts.3 The insect responses against parasitism were described recently:4 resulting in a thin capsular formation that maintain the nematode larvae enclosed and unmobilizated until the initial days of adult fly. However, the possible occurrence of physiological implications caused by H. muscae activities on the muscid body are unknown. Such interferences could contribute to change the vector populational dinamic.

Studies directed to the interaction between invertebrate host versus parasite have revealed dangerous effects on the reproduction, growth and behaviour in some hosts. Researchs on the survival coevolutive pathway of this species could help in its control.5 With this purpose, the longevity of parasitized and non-parasitized Musca domestica Linnaeus (Diptera: Muscidae) by Habronema muscae Carter (Diesing) was studied comparatively.


Adults of M. domestica were collected from Station W. O. Neitz for Parasitological Researches, Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro, Seropédica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (22o 41' S; 43o 41' W, 93 m of altitude).

Second generation larvae, with aproximately 30 h old were utilized in this bioassay. The artificial diet was composed of wheaten bran, fish flour and yeast (proportion 4:2:1, respectively) and distilled water. The rate of 2 g (diet) was observed for each larva. The adults were mantained with honey solution (50%), powder milk and distilled water.

Adults of Habronema sp were collected from two equines necropsies. After identification, 120 H. muscae females were macerated, resulting a suspension of aproximately 14,000 morphologically well-developed eggs/ ml of physiological solution. Three replication/ treatment were utilized, inoculating 80 M. domestica neolarvae/ replication to the denominated negative control (not exposed to infection) and infected groups (exposed). A third lot, positive control, was constituted by 20 larvae/replication, which had the objective to rate M. domestica infection parameters of newly emerged adults, through counting of H. muscae infective larvae. These parameters were utilized in comparisons with the infected group. A padronizated volume containing about 500 eggs of H. muscae/ fly larva was inoculated in the infected and positive control groups.

The treatments were maintained at chamber at constant temperature of 27° C, 60 ± 10% RH, and 14 h of photophase. After pupariation, the muscids were individualized and transferred to assay tubes containing vermiculite. Newly emerged adults were grouped in 25 partners per replication distributed in screen cages. During this bioassay mean values of 26.3° C for temperature (total amplitude: 21.9-28.9° C) and 67% RH (range: 57-76%) registered by a termohigrograph. The dead specimens were recuperated daily from cages and dissected utilizing estereoscopical microscope. The specimens of positive control group were killed with ether and dissected. These procedures were initiated immediately after the adult emergence and were finalized until 24 h on later. When necessary, the material was stored under refrigerator until dissection.

The expected mean longevity (ML) and the pattern curve were obtained after linearization of the Weibull function.6 The means and the angular coefficients of the infected and control positive treatments were compared by t test. The influence of sex and parasitism on the muscid longevity was measured using the factor analysis of variance.

The parasitological terms utilized followed Bush et al.(1997).7


The results obtained from longevity curves of M. domestica demonstrated concordance between the observed and expected values, which indicated as satisfactory the cumulative model (R2 > 0.95). An increased mortality rate in infected group when compared with the negative control was evidenciated (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Longevity pattern curve of M. domestica infected (a and b) and not infected-negative control (c and d) by nematode H. muscae. The continuous and broken lines represent the expected and observed longevity data, respectively.

The positive control group showed mean abundance of 7.2 H. muscae infective larvaea dult fly (Table 1). Only one fly was not infected. The infected group presented mean abundance and mean intensity of 3.19 and 4.14 infective larvae/ muscoid, respectively. In artificial diet, M. domestica male and female displayed the same susceptibility to H. muscae infection.

Table I. Prevalence and mean abundance of infection in infected and positive control groups
of Musca domestica adults parasitized by Habronema muscae
(Mean temperature: 26,3 oC; HR: 57-76%).1,2


Viability3 Number Mean abundance4, 5 Prevalence



      Male Female  
      c ± SD Amplitude c ± SD Amplitude  

positive 86,50 a 52 8,34±1,8 01-23 6,20±1,85 0-21 98,26 a
      Aa   Aa    


89,58 a 134 3,09±1,13 0- 11 3,30±0,30 0-14 79,86 b



1 The percentage data were transformed through p'=arcsin (p)1/2 to the statistical analisys.
2 Values followed by same letter (minuscule to column and maiuscule to lines) are not different, using T test (confidence interval using p>0.95).
3 Percentage of recovered adults based on the inoculated neolarvae number.
4 c = mean ± standard deviation (SD)
5 Estimated mean offert of 500 well-developed eggs of H. muscae per M. domestica larva

  The results shown in Figure 2 suggest a inverse relation between the longevity and the mean intensity from muscids. This fact explain the significative difference on prevalence of the control positive and infected groups (Table 1).

Figure 2. Mean intensity and mortality frequence from infected adult Musca domestica group by Habronema muscae at age interval. (F= female, M=male and n= number)

There was a significative reduction on ML in infected group as compared with the control negative group (25.0 e 32.5 days, respectively); however, the ML of both two groups were not affected by sexual factor.

The influence degree exerted by nematodes in its preferential host varies substantially according to each species: the biological characters of parasite and the established infection degree should be considered. Thus, Christensen (1977)8 working with Aedes trivittatus Coq. (Diptera: Culicidae), considered that mosquitoes fed on dogs with high microfilariemia (infected by Dirofilaria immitis Leidy-Nematoda: Filaridae) implicated in a high infection intensity and consequently in a increased mortality of vectors. Richardson & Chanter (1979)9 inferring about the use of Howardula hussey Richardson, Hesling & Riding (Nematoda: Allantonematidae), a free-living nematode, as biological controller agent of Megaselia halterata Wood (Diptera: Phoridae), observed that the parasitism reduced the male muscoid longevity in six days and in two days to the females. This helminth species parasitizes the females reproductive system of phorid fly, becoming it sterile or decreasing the egg production. Nevertheless, the investigation of Musca autumnalis De Geer (Diptera: Muscidae) longevity infected by nematode Heterotylenchus autumnalis Nickle (Nematoda: Sphaerulariidae) did not show interferences related to the parasitism.10 The same result was obtained by Freier & Friedman (1987)11 from studies about the infection effects of Plasmodium gallinaceum Brumpt (Eucoccida: Plasmodiidae) on mortality and body weight in mosquitoes Aedes aegypti L. (Diptera: Culicidae). These authors suggested the existence of comensalism between those two species.

Defense mechanisms as encapsulation, blood coagulation at Malpighi tubules and peritrophic membrane, are obstacle to parasitological development, avoiding lethal infections for some hosts.12

In artificial diet, the estimated inocule was H. muscae 500 eggs/ fly larva, which created expectative to obtain high mean intensity. However, in this bioassay a low mean intensity was obtained (Table 1). Although, the eggs computed microscopically were only those considered morphologically mature, perheps great part could not to be physiologically mature. Factors as the maceration of female and mantainence of eggs in the artificial diet might have influenciated on the decreasing of egg viability. Nevertheless, the low degree infection, was similar to the data obtained by dissection from naturally infected muscoids.13, 14

Thus, the presence of nematodes, even at low number under body, altered the fly longevity. However, the observed longevity in infected adults enables occur the parasite transmission and also the dipterous reproduction. These fact reflects the adaptation related to coevolutive processes, because the existence of any parasite depends from simultaneous presence of their vectors.

The high intensity of infection appears to lead for a considerable reducing of muscoid longevity, decreasing its reproductive capacity. Habronematid vectors showed high mortality rate in studies about M. domestica intensively infected by Draschia megastoma Rudolphi (Nematoda: Habronematidae).15 This tendence was also verified when the relationship between Stomoxys calcitrans Linnaeus (Diptera: Muscidae) and H. microstoma Schneider (Nematoda: Habronematidae) was monitored.16 However, this founds are originated from casual observations, realized without an adequated methodology.


Este trabajo buscó evidenciar la influencia del parásito Habronema muscae sobre la longevidad de Musca domestica. Larvas de los muscóides de segunda generación, con cerca de 30 h, fueron sometidas a la infección en dieta artificial en la cual se inocularon huevos de H. muscae recuperados de las hembras de los helmintos. Los muscídeos fueron mantenidos en cajas con paredes de tela, manteniendose a 27° C, 60 ± 10% de HR y 14 h de fotofase hasta la formación de las pupas. Los números de muscídeos muertos fueron conferidos diariamente. Posteriormente, estos fueron disecados para ratificación de las larvas infectantes de los nemátodos. La intensidad media de infección fue de 3,11 larvas infectantes por muscídeo (rango: 0-14) en el grupo infectado. Este último grupo mostró reducción significativa de la longevidad cuando se comparó al grupo no expuesto a la infección (25,0 y 32,5 días, respectivamente). No fue evidenciado diferencia entre las longevidades de los muscóides machos y hembras.

* Departamento de Parasitologia Animal, Instituto de Biologia, Universidade Federal Rural do Rio de Janeiro. CEP 23 890 000. Seropédica, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. E-mail:


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