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Vet. Res.
Volume 35, Number 4, July-August 2004
Equine infectious diseases
Page(s) 371 - 381
DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1051/vetres:2004026
How to cite this article Vet. Res. (2004) 371-381
Vet. Res. 35 (2004) 371-381
DOI: 10.1051/vetres:2004026

Recent developments in research into the Cyathostominae and Anoplocephala perfoliata

Jacqueline B. Matthewsa, b, Jane E. Hodgkinsonc, Samantha M.J. Dowdalla and Christopher J. Proudmana

a  Department of Veterinary Clinical Science, Faculty of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Leahurst, South Wirral, CH64 7TE, United Kingdom
b  Division of Parasitology, Moredun Research Institute, Pentlands Science Park, Midlothian EH26 OPZ, Scotland, United Kingdom
c  Department of Veterinary Parasitology, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, University of Liverpool, Pembroke Place, Liverpool, L3 5QA, United Kingdom

(Received 26 June 2003; accepted 3 October 2003)

Abstract - Intestinal helminths are an important cause of equine disease. Of these parasites, the Cyathostominae are the commonest group that infect horses. These nematodes consist of a complex tribe of 51 species, although individual horses tend to harbour 10 or so common species, in addition to a few rarer species. The Cyathostominae can be extremely pathogenic, and high levels of infection result in clinical symptoms ranging from chronic weight loss to colic, diarrhoea and death. As part of their life cycle, immature cyathostomins penetrate the large intestinal wall, where they can enter a state of inhibited larval development. These larvae can exist in this state for months to years, after which they subsequently re-emerge. If larvae re-emerge in large numbers (i.e. several million), severe pathological consequences ensue. The inhibited larvae are also relatively refractory to several of the currently available anthelmintics, so that horses treated previously with anthelmintics can still carry life-threatening burdens of these parasitic stages. Little is known about the cyathostomin larvae during their mucosal phase, and current research efforts are focused on investigating the biology of these stages. Much of the research described here highlights this area of research and details studies aimed at investigating the host immune responses that the mucosal larvae invoke. As part of this research effort, molecular tools have been developed to facilitate the identification of larval and egg stages of cyathostomins. These molecular tools are now proving very useful in the investigation of the relative contributions that individual, common cyathostomin species make to the pathology and epidemiology of mixed helminth infections. At the more applied level, research is also in progress to develop an immunodiagnostic test that will allow numbers of mucosal larvae to be estimated. This test utilises antigen-specific IgG(T) serum antibody responses as markers of infection. As anthelmintic resistance will be the major constraint on the future control of the Cyathostominae, researchers are now actively investigating this area and studies aimed at elucidating the molecular mechanisms of drug resistance are described. Another parasite which has assumed a clinically important role in horses is the tapeworm, Anoplocephala perfoliata. This parasite is prevalent world-wide and has been shown to be a significant cause of equine colic. Because previous methods of estimating the infection intensity of tapeworm were inaccurate, recent research has been directed at developing an immunodiagnostic ELISA for these cestodes. Specific IgG(T) responses to antigens secreted by adult tapeworms have been shown to provide a reasonable indication of infection intensity. An ELISA based on these responses is now commercially available. The steps involved in the development of this ELISA are described here. In addition to these recent advances in research, this review also outlines the principle areas for future research into these important equine parasites.


Key words: equine / helminths / Cyathostominae / Anoplocephala perfoliata / research

Corresponding author: Jacqueline B. Matthews Jacqui.Matthews@mri.sari.ac.uk

© INRA, EDP Sciences 2004