Leukocyte numbers and intestinal mucosal morphometrics in horses with no clinical intestinal disease

Guido Rocchigiani, Emanuele Ricci, Mauricio A. Navarro, Monika A. Samol, Francisco A. Uzal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Healthy horses and other animals have large numbers of resident leukocytes in the intestinal wall, but there is scant information regarding which and how many leukocytes are normally present in the equine intestinal wall. Our aim was to provide a reference range of leukocytes in the intestinal mucosal and submucosal propria of normal horses. We included in our study intestinal tissues from 22 Thoroughbred racehorses with no clinical intestinal disease, which had been euthanized because of catastrophic musculoskeletal injuries. Neutrophils, lymphocytes, eosinophils, macrophages, and plasma cells were counted in 5 random 17,600-µm2 areas of villus lamina propria of the duodenum, jejunum, and ileum, and deep lamina propria of the duodenum, jejunum, ileum, right ventral colon, left ventral colon, left dorsal colon, right dorsal colon, and small colon. Other features investigated in the same intestinal segments included villus height and width (small intestine), presence of ciliated protozoa, Paneth cells number, subcryptal leukocyte layers (number of leukocyte layers between the bottom of the crypts and the muscularis mucosae), and submucosal leukocytes. Lymphocytes were the most numerous cells in all segments analyzed, followed by plasma cells, eosinophils, macrophages, and neutrophils. Eosinophil numbers were significantly higher in both lamina propria and submucosa of the large intestine than in the small intestine. The duodenum had shorter and thinner villi than either jejunum or ileum. The data provided from our study will be useful for diagnosticians examining inflammatory processes in the intestinal tract of horses.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Veterinary Diagnostic Investigation
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • anatomy
  • horses
  • intestine
  • lamina propria
  • leukocytes
  • villi

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • veterinary(all)


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