Comparative Analysis of Intestinal Helminth Infections in Colic and Non-Colic Control Equine Patients

Animals (Basel). 2020 Oct 19;10(10):1916. doi: 10.3390/ani10101916.


All around the world, intestinal helminths constitute one of the most prevalent life-long occurring infections and re-infections affecting all horse age groups. A range of parasite species among strongyles, ascarids, and tapeworms is known to have the potential to cause colic in horses. However, there is a lack of current scientific evidence on the actual relevance of helminth infection levels in the context of colic in horses kept during prevailing epidemiological conditions. Thus, a prospective case-control study on the occurrence of intestinal helminths in a total of 620 mainly adult equine clinic patients was conducted to investigate the association between colic and helminth infection. For each horse, a range of copromicroscopic, serological, and clinical data was obtained, in addition to a questionnaire on relevant anamnestic data, including previous anthelmintic treatment and husbandry. Using a FLOTAC-based copromicroscopic diagnosis, the highest infection rates were seen for strongyles (41.8%), followed by Anoplocephala perfoliata and Parascaris spp. (both 0.8%), with no significant difference between the two study groups. Employing a real-time PCR a 1.1% S. vulgaris DNA prevalence was found. Considerably higher seroprevalences were observed using S. vulgaris and A. perfoliata ELISAs, with 32.3% and 10.7%, respectively. It was noteworthy that no association concerning either serologic status was encountered with colic status. The shedding of strongyle eggs was associated with a 1.8-times increased risk of S. vulgaris seropositivity. Recent anthelmintic treatment was associated with the onset of colic, as animals who had received an anthelmintic during the previous week had a 2.4-times higher risk of signs of colic compared to those who had been treated at least eight weeks prior. Another noteworthy observation was that ponies were significantly less often affected by colic than warmbloods. The high S. vulgaris and considerable A. perfoliata seroprevalences encountered in this investigation should prompt veterinarians, farm managers, and horse owners to maintain consequent and effective worm control measures.

Keywords: Anoplocephala; Parascaris; Strongylus vulgaris; anthelmintic; coproscopic; cyathostomin; gastro-intestinal; helminth infection; seroprevalence; tapeworm.