Improving the detection of parasitic infections and control strategies of horses

The University of Melbourne

  • Project code: PRJ-011191

  • Project stage: Closed

  • Project start date: Thursday, September 27, 2018

  • Project completion date: Sunday, April 16, 2023

  • Journal Articles From Project: Egg reappearance periods of anthelmintics against equine cyathostomins: The state of play revisited. International Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance (Issue: 21, 28-39. on 1/4/2023), Molecular diagnostics for gastrointestinal helminths in equids: Past, present and future Veterinary Parasitology (Issue: 313, 109851 on 1/1/2023), Cyathostomin resistance to moxidectin and combinations of anthelmintics in Australian horses. Parasites and Vectors (Issue: 14, 597 on 4/12/2021), Comparative studies on faecal egg counting techniques used for the detection of gastrointestinal parasites of equines: a systematic review Current Research in Parasitology & Vector-Borne Diseases (Issue: 1:100046 on 9/8/2021), Molecular detection of Strongyloides sp. in Australian thoroughbred foals Parasites and Vectors (Issue: 14:444 on 3/9/2021), Systematic review of gastrointestinal nematodes of horses from Australia Parasites and Vectors (Issue: 12:188 on 29/4/2019)

  • National Priority: HOR-Thoroughbred diseases and parasites


Currently, there is an incomplete understanding of the gastrointestinal parasites affecting the health, performance and welfare of thoroughbred horses in Australia. Although documented for some important parasitic nematode species, the true extent of resistance in parasites of horses to the commonly used anthelmintics in this country is unknown. These knowledge gaps have important implications for the Australian thoroughbred industry since the costs of managing parasites and parasite-related disease is likely to increase if current practices are not modified. Furthermore, currently available methods for the detection of nematodes in horses lack diagnostic sensitivity and/or specificity. This project aims to (i) determine the epidemiology of the intestinal parasites of thoroughbred horses under various climatic conditions across Australia, (ii) develop an understanding of currently used parasite control methods, (iii) assess the prevalence of parasite resistance to commonly used anthelmintics and (iv) develop molecular-based test(s) to improve the accuracy of detecting clinically important parasite burdens in horses. The outcomes of this project will be used to advance detection of parasitic infections of horses and develop rational parasite control strategies that are relevant to the Australian thoroughbred industry. Most of existing equine worm control practices in this country are based on the extrapolation of the knowledge generated in the northern hemisphere. This project will also provide an opportunity to train research higher degree student(s) in equine parasitology.


Thoroughbred Horses

Research Organisation

The University of Melbourne

Objective Summary

• To determine the epidemiology (i.e. prevalence, temporal, spatial and seasonal distribution, worm burden and faecal shedding patterns) of the intestinal parasites of thoroughbred horses under various climatic conditions across Australia
• To assess the practices currently used to control parasitic infections in Australian thoroughbred horses using a national questionnaire survey
While it is suspected that many Australian horses are routinely de-wormed irrespective of parasite burden or other control methods that might be in place, very little is currently known about the specific de-worming practices for Australian horses. Additionally, this survey will provide insights into non-chemical practices used to control horse parasites in Australia.
• To undertake field efficacy studies to assess the status of anthelmintic resistance in intestinal parasites in thoroughbred horses
Resistance to commonly used anthelmintics has been documented for some important parasites in Australia and it is suspected that resistance amongst some parasite populations is common. However, the true status of anthelmintic resistance amongst equine parasites in this country is unknown. This is essential knowledge if effective strategic control programs are to be developed.
• To develop molecular tool(s) for the rapid and reliable diagnosis of parasitic infections in horses
The diagnosis of parasitic infections in horses currently relies on suggestive clinical signs and faecal egg counts (FEC). The clinical signs of parasitism are often non-specific and FEC can be unreliable. Reliable tools are required to accurately identify clinically significant parasite burdens.
• To train a research higher degree (MPhil/PhD) student