The degeneration of enteric neurones has been recorded in grass sickness, but the distribution of the lesions in the gut and their possible relationship with the severity of the clinical signs has not been established. Samples obtained from 11 anatomically defined sites along the gastrointestinal tract of eight control horses without gastrointestinal disease, five horses with acute grass sickness and three horses with chronic grass sickness were examined histologically. The organisation of the enteric ganglia was similar to that in other large mammalian species. Minor exceptions included the presence of fundic mucosal nerve cell bodies and blood vessels within submucosal ganglia. All the horses with grass sickness had severe enteric neuropathy, widespread in the acute cases but localised to the distal small intestine in the chronic cases. These neuronal lesions are consistent with, and may explain the intractable gastrointestinal propulsive deficit that characterises grass sickness.
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