Equine Tapeworm Infections: Disease, Diagnosis and Control

Dr. Martin K. Nielsen of the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky recently published an article titled, “Equine tapeworm infections: Disease, diagnosis and control.” The article was published in Equine Veterinary Education and is available to read or purchase from Wiley Online Library.


Equine tapeworm infection has gained increasing attention over the past few decades and a number of research studies have already been published. These focus primarily on the most common of the 3 tapeworm species, Anoplocephala perfoliata, although some new information has also been generated for the other two species, Anoplocephala magna and Anoplocephaloides mamillana. The preponderance of research studies have focused on development and validation of diagnostic techniques for tapeworm detection and the role of these parasites in equine gastrointestinal disease. Several diagnostic techniques have been found useful for diagnosis of A. perfoliata but each has its strengths and weaknesses. Egg counting techniques have been modified to achieve acceptable to good diagnostic performance but the trade-off is often a more time-consuming method. Validation studies indicate that these methods can reliably detect tapeworm burdens above 10 worms. Several enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISAs) have been developed and made commercially available. These can generate useful information about tapeworm exposure on the herd level but are less reliable for individual diagnosis. Unfortunately, none of the available diagnostic techniques are useful for evaluating anthelmintic treatment efficacy. Coproantigen testing may find use as a future diagnostic modality but further characterisation is required. The large body of scientific evidence supports an association between A. perfoliata infection and certain types of equine colic, although some discrepancy exists between studies. Tapeworm surveillance and control should be considered as part of the overall parasite control strategy. When properly used, the currently available diagnostic tools can guide the veterinarian to make strategic decisions regarding tapeworm control.


Martin K. Nielsen, Department of Veterinary Science, M.H. Gluck Equine Research Center, University of Kentucky, Lexington.

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