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Anthelmintic resistance in equine parasites – detection, potential clinical relevance and implications for control

von Samson-Himmelstjerna, Georg
Veterinary parasitology 2012 v.185 no.1 pp. 2-8
Cyathostominae, Parascaris equorum, benzimidazoles, death, developed countries, farms, foals, immunity, moxidectin, parasites, pasture management, pyrantel, small intestine
During the past two decades anthelmintic resistance in equine parasites has been found in the group of small strongyle species (cyathostomins) and in the ascarid species Parascaris equorum. The ubiquitous nature and possible severe consequences of disease with these nematodes make them the prime targets of current worm control programmes. Traditional control strategies mainly rely on the strategic application of anthelmintics, currently represented by three major drug classes: benzimidazoles (BZ), the tetrahydropyrimidine pyrantel (PYR) and macrocyclic lactones (ML). Following decades of routine and frequent anthelmintic applications, many cyathostomin populations on horse farms in industrialised countries must be considered as resistant to BZ anthelmintics. However, to date no published cases of cyathostomin disease specifically associated with anthelmintic resistance were reported. Possibly this is due to the generally subclinical and unspecific symptoms associated with cyathostomin infections. Nevertheless, exclusive reliance on the ML drug class may increase the threat of clinical disease due to drug-resistant cyathostomins. More recently, P. equorum has been reported as having developed resistance against ivermectin and moxidectin, two representatives of the ML-class. These anthelmintics are currently the most frequently used drug class in horses. This nematode species is mainly found in foals and in younger horses due to the development of immunity following exposure to infection. Infection with P. equorum can result in clinically drastic consequences such as obstruction and/or penetration of the small intestine, the latter usually leading to death. In conclusion, on horse farms the efficacy of anthelmintic treatments should be examined routinely for each drug class. Several factors can influence the rate at which anthelmintic resistance develops; high frequency of treatment being one of the most important. Modern control strategies should therefore attempt to significantly reduce anthelmintic treatments. Several pasture and farm management practices found to be negatively associated with nematode and anthelmintic resistance prevalence will be discussed in the review presented here.