For the first time, an accurate test to diagnose tapeworm infection in horses will be available to horse owners in the USA this summer! EquiSal® Tapeworm (patent granted) is a laboratory test using horse saliva to determine whether a horse has a tapeworm infection.
The EquiSal® result provides a low, borderline or moderate/high diagnosis and deworming is recommended for horses diagnosed as borderline or moderate/high. Diagnostic accuracy has been proven through full validation of the test which has been published in peer reviewed journal, Veterinary Clinical Pathology1.
Currently, the only test available in the USA is a fecal worm egg count (FEC), where worm eggs are counted in a stool sample. The standard method for FEC is unreliable for diagnosing tapeworm burdens as eggs are released intermittently and are not uniformly spread throughout the stool.
Tapeworm infections are more accurately diagnosed by either a blood test or the EquiSal® Tapeworm saliva test, both of which detect tapeworm-specific antibodies. EquiSal® Tapeworm has been available in the UK for the past 3 years and is integral to targeted worm control programmes recommended by many equine veterinary practices as well as companies offering FEC services.
The EquiSal® Tapeworm saliva test
The EquiSal® Tapeworm test is carried out using saliva collected with the specially designed swab provided in the EquiSal® saliva collection kit. Due to the ease of saliva collection, this procedure can be carried out by horse owners.
Once the swab has been placed in a tube containing preservative solution, the sample is sent to Horsemen’s Laboratory in Illinois in a prepaid envelope, before being shipped to the Austin Davis Biologics testing laboratory in the UK. Samples are stable for at least 3 weeks at room temperature in the preservative solution, enabling safe transportation of samples overseas.
EquiSal® saliva collection kits are available to purchase from Horsemen’s Laboratory, who currently run a postal FEC service within the USA.
In due course, kits are expected to be available from veterinary practices and veterinary pharmacies with an expected SRP of $40. This price includes all return shipping and laboratory testing with no hidden extra costs.
Once samples have been tested, results are emailed to the test kit providers to feedback to horse owners together with any advice required for deworming.
It is easy to incorporate EquiSal® Tapeworm testing into your worm control programme – simply test every 6 months at a time when you would consider routine deworming for tapeworm.
Why test for tapeworm?
Internal parasites present a constant challenge for horses, requiring ongoing monitoring and careful management to maintain optimum horse health. Incorrect management can lead to unchecked worm infections, development of resistance to dewormers and, in worst cases, ill health and death.
Three species of tapeworm are capable of infecting horses; the most common is Anoplocephala perfoliata. It can grow up to 8 cm long and is made up of a series of segments.
The head has four suckers which the tapeworm uses to attach itself to the cecum and to a small region of the intestines called the ileocecal junction. This localised attachment causes damage to the intestines and the presence of large numbers of tapeworms causes intestinal obstruction and clinical disease, resulting in colic.
What is resistance?
Worms can develop the ability to survive exposure to dewormers, usually through repeated exposure to deworming. The risk of resistance emerging is increased by practices such as routine deworming strategies or under-dosing with dewormers.
It is therefore becoming increasingly important to avoid routinely deworming horses and to reserve the use of drugs for when they are really needed – when a horse has a confirmed infection.
Testing before treating significantly reduces dewormer doses
Routinely testing for tapeworm every 6 months and only treating horses diagnosed with an infection significantly reduces the doses of dewormer being administered to horses. Approximately 75% of horses in the UK are diagnosed with a low burden and do not require treatment.
CASE STUDY 1: Testing small herds
International show jumper, Tim Stockdale, routinely tests the horses in his stable using EquiSal® Tapeworm. During the last year, only three of his horses were diagnosed with a tapeworm infection, therefore using this approach, only three doses of tapeworm dewormer has been necessary and Tim has been able to only use dewormers when they are needed. “EquiSal® Tapeworm testing resulted in just three of the 20-plus horses at my stable needing treatment over the last 12 months. Keeping deworming to the absolute minimum, keeps my horses healthy and reduces the risk of resistance to deworming chemicals” says Tim Stockdale.
CASE STUDY 2: Testing large herds
In 2016, Bransby Horses (UK), who use saliva testing for horses in their care as part of their worm control strategy, tested in Spring and Autumn as well as testing horses new to the premises. Only 22% of the 749 test results were borderline or moderate/high and required treatment. This resulted in a big reduction in dewormer doses administered to the horses – 583 to be exact!
To find out more information about tapeworm infection in horses, testing and control measures, or if you wish to become an EquiSal® test kit provider, visit www.equisal.com or email email@example.com.
1 Lightbody, K. L., Davis, P. J. and Austin, C. J. (2016), Validation of a novel saliva-based ELISA test for diagnosing tapeworm burden in horses. Vet Clin Pathol, 45: 335–346