Fecal Tests Fail At Tapeworm Detection

Though fecal egg counts are an essential tool in a horse owner’s anti-worm arsenal, the test isn’t always accurate in detecting the presence of tape worms, a German study has found. The presence of tapeworm eggs can be missed by the tests as tapeworms don’t continuously produce eggs like most parasites do; they release packets of eggs only occasionally.

Adding to the issue is that even when the eggs are released, the packets aren’t evenly distributed through the manure, meaning they could easily be missed under a microscope. However, there are other methods for detecting the presence of tapeworms in horses, including using manure, saliva or serum.

Drs.  Laura Jürgenschellert, Jürgen Krücken, Corrine Austin, Kirsty Lightbody, Eric Bousquet and Georg von Samson-Himmelstjerna used 48 horse farms in Berlin and Brandenburg, Germany, to test different tapeworm analysis methods. They took fecal samples from 484 horses, serum samples from 481 horses and saliva samples from 365 horses. The saliva and serum samples were tested to determine the antibody levels against tapeworms.

The fecal egg count tests detected tapeworm eggs in 0.6 percent of the samples (6.3 percent of the farm). However, antibodies against tapeworms were present in 16.2 percent of serum samples (52.1 percent of farms) and in 29.5 percent of the saliva samples (75.7 percent of farms).

The research team also sent out a questionnaire to horse owners and they determined that pasture access and pasture changes, as well as high strongyle egg counts, were risk factors for positive serum responses to tapeworms.

The scientists determined that treatment with a dewormer targeted to tapeworms is protective. The presence of foals and a large number of horses on the farm also seem to offer protective benefits. Interestingly, daily removal of manure didn’t make a difference on whether a horse had tapeworms.

The research team concluded that conventional fecal tests for tapeworms are not accurate; for a true indication of the prevalence of tapeworms, horse owners should consider using antibody detection methods like the saliva test used in the study.

Read the full study here.

Read more at HorseTalk.

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