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Phenotypic expression of parasite susceptibility to Haemonchus contortus in Pelibuey sheep

Ojeda-Robertos, N.F., Torres-Acosta, J.F.J., González-Garduño, R., Notter, D.R.
Veterinary parasitology 2017 v.239 pp. 57-61
Haemonchus contortus, Pelibuey (sheep breed), eggs, fecal egg count, feces, gastrointestinal nematodes, lambs, larvae, males, phenotype
The objective of this study was to determine if the mean faecal egg count (FEC) from a first experimental Haemonchus contortus infection could be used to classify parasite-naïve Pelibuey hair sheep as parasite-resistant high responders and parasite-susceptible low responders. Twenty 6- to 7-month-old Pelibuey male sheep raised free of gastrointestinal nematodes were challenged with 7500±1412 H. contortus L3 larvae administrated orally on day 0 of the study. Faecal samples from each lamb were obtained daily from 21 to 41days post-infection (Stage I). Lambs received a second artificial infection of 8420±1545L3 larvae on day 42, with faecal samples collected from day 65 to day 78 (Stage III). The mean FEC for each lamb in Stage I was used to classify 8 lambs with means for FEC that were more than two standard errors (SE) below the overall mean (i.e., <4764 eggs per gram of feces; epg) as high responders. The remaining 12 lambs were classified as low responders. Means for FEC in Stage I were 2449±194 epg for high responders and 14,461±1044 epg for low responders (P<0.05). High responders also had lower FEC than low responders in Stage III (actual means of 650±220 vs. 5933±1990 epg; P<0.05 following log transformation to normalize the FEC distribution). Lambs were then reclassified as high and low responders based on their mean FEC in Stage III. Fourteen lambs with means for FEC that were more than one standard error (SE) below the overall mean (i.e., below 1537 epg) were classified as high responders. The remaining six lambs were classified as low responders. Use of the Stage I responder class to predict the Stage III responder class resulted in an 83.3% sensitivity but only a 50% specificity. The positive predictive value was 41.7% and the negative predictive value was 87.5%. The poor positive predictive value was caused by 5 animals with high FEC in Stage I, but low FEC in Stage III. The first infection thus identified most high-responder lambs, but a second infection may improve accuracy by separating lambs with an intermediate level of resistance from truly susceptible lambs. This protocol now requires additional validation under more practical conditions involving natural parasite infections and larger lamb numbers.