Veterinary Importance

Cockroaches serve as intermediate hosts for a number of parasitic worms of animals (Table III). Most of these relationships are of no economic importance. The majority of the parasites are nematodes in the order Spirurida, all members of which use arthropods as intermediate hosts. Species infesting dogs and cats, among other hosts, attach to the mucosa of the gastrointestinal tract, where erosion of tissue may occur at the points of attachment.

FIGURE 3.13 Apparatus for conducting allergen tests using cockroaches. (Courtesy ofR. J. Brenner, USDA/ARS)

Although serious damage seldom occurs, anemia and slow growth may result. Several cockroach-associated nematodes occur in Europe and North America. The esophageal worms Pbysaloptem vara and P. praeputialis are the most widespread species in the United States. They develop in the German cockroach, field crickets, and several species of beedes.

Poultry also are parasitized by nematodes which undergo development in cockroaches. The Surinam cockroach is the intermediate host for the poultry eye worms Oxyspirura mansoni and O, parvorum. Both occur in many parts of the world. In the United States, their distribution is limited to Florida and Louisiana. The German cockroach has been incriminated as the intermediate host for chicken and turkey parasites, including the stomach worms Tetrameres nmericana, T. ftssispina, and Cyrnea colini; C. colini also develops in the American cockroach, C. colini apparently causes no significant damage to poultry, but Oxyspirura species can cause pathology ranging from mild conjunctivitis to severe ophthalmia with seriously impaired vision. T.fissispina can cause severe damage to the proventriculus of infested birds.

Several nematode parasites of rats and cattle utilize cockroaches as intermediate hosts (Table III). These include G, neoplasticum and Mastophorus muris'm rodents. Both genera occur widely in the United States, where they cause no known pathological problems. The gullet worm of cattle, G, pulchrum, has been shown experimentally to undergo development in the German cockroach, although the usual arthropod hosts are coprophagous beedes.

Exotic zoo animals also can become infested with parasitic nematodes for which cockroaches serve as possible intermediate hosts. Protospirura bonnei and P. muricola, for example, have been found in cockroaches collected in cages of monkeys. In a case of "wasting disease" in a colony of common marmosets, more than 50% of German and brownbanded cockroaches captured in the animal room in which they were housed contained the coiled larvae of Trichospirura leptostoma in muscle cells (Beglinger et al., 1988).

Acanthocephalans (thorny-headed worms) commonly infest primates in zoos and research facilities. Pros-thcnorchis elegans and P. spirula occur naturally in South and Central America. Their natural intermediate hosts are unknown. In captivity, primates become infected after eating any of several cockroach species in which the intermediate stages of the parasite have completed development. Heavily infested primates frequently die within a few days. The proboscis of acanthocephalan adults commonly penetrates the intestines of the primate host, causing secondary infections, perforation of the gut wall, and peritonitis.

One pentastomid (tongue worm), Kaillietiella hemi-dactyli} develops in cockroaches and reptilian hosts. In Singapore, infested geckos are a common occurrence in houses where heavy infestations of R. hemidactyli larvae have been found in American cockroaches. Remnants of cockroaches are found commonly in the guts of these lizards.

For additional information on the veterinary importance of cockroaches, see Chitwood and Chitwood (1950), Roth and Willis (1957), Levine (1968), and Noble and Noble (1976).

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