Refugia--overlooked as perhaps the most potent factor concerning the development of anthelmintic resistance

Onderstepoort J Vet Res. 2001 Mar;68(1):55-67.


Anthelmintic resistance involving particularly the gastrointestinal nematodes of small ruminants is escalating globally, to the extent that in certain countries, such as South Africa, it has already reached alarming proportions, and is affecting practically all the anthelmintics. In this paper it is argued that the high levels of resistance in nematodes of veterinary importance indicate that the drugs have been used incorrectly. It is suggested that the phenomenon of refugia plays a much more important role in the selection of anthelmintic resistance than other phenomena that are more frequently investigated and recommended for counteracting it, such as reduced drenching frequency and avoiding under-dosing. While refugia is commonly mentioned in passing in most papers on anthelmintic resistance, it is, almost without exception, not incorporated in the final control/ management proposals. On the strength of the conclusions arrived at in the present paper strategies such as the drench-and-move system in which all the animals in a flock are drenched before they are moved to pastures containing few or no worms in refugia, and the system of strategic drenching on safe pastures should be condemned and never recommended. If such strategies are indeed unavoidable, the farmer should be warned that the farming system would probably not be sustainable even in the short term, in view of the generally high levels of resistance already present in most of the important sheep-producing regions. Farmers should be educated to consider refugia above all else when designing worm management programmes. Finally there seems to be too much complacency concerning the possibility that anthelmintic resistance may also escalate in cattle, eventually to reach the proportions that it has in sheep.

MeSH terms

  • Animal Husbandry / methods
  • Animals
  • Anthelmintics / pharmacology*
  • Anthelmintics / therapeutic use
  • Cattle
  • Cattle Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cattle Diseases / parasitology*
  • Cattle Diseases / prevention & control
  • Drug Resistance
  • Helminths / drug effects*
  • Nematode Infections / drug therapy
  • Nematode Infections / prevention & control
  • Nematode Infections / veterinary*
  • Ruminants / parasitology*
  • Sheep
  • Sheep Diseases / drug therapy
  • Sheep Diseases / parasitology*
  • Sheep Diseases / prevention & control


  • Anthelmintics