EQUUS - - Medicalfro­nt -

In the United King­dom and parts of Europe, a sim­ple saliva test can now be used to iden­tify tape­worm in­fec­tions in horses.

Fairly com­mon in horses, tape­worm in­fes­ta­tion can cause un­thrifti­ness, di­ar­rhea and colic. But un­like most other in­ter­nal par­a­sites, tapeworms are dif­fi­cult to de­tect us­ing fe­cal egg counts. Pre­vi­ously, the only re­li­able method for iden­ti­fy­ing tapeworms in horses was a blood test mea­sur­ing an­ti­bod­ies spe­cific to the par­a­site.

Re­cently, how­ever, Austin Davis Bi­o­log­ics in Eng­land de­vel­oped a method for iden­ti­fy­ing tape­worm-spe­cific an­ti­bod­ies in saliva. To in­ves­ti­gate the ef­fi­cacy of the new test, re­searchers used it to an­a­lyze saliva from 104 horses at a United King­dom abat­toir, then com­pared the find­ings to the re­sults of blood tests of the same horses. They also per­formed a vis­ual in­spec­tion of each horse’s in­testi­nal tract to count the tapeworms present.

They found that the saliva test was just as ac­cu­rate as a standard blood test in de­tect­ing the pres­ence of tapeworms. In ad­di­tion, there was a strong cor­re­la­tion be­tween the re­sults of the saliva test and the num­ber of tapeworms in each horse—the higher the saliva score, the more se­vere the in­fes­ta­tion.

Not­ing that saliva sam­ples could be col­lected by horse own­ers, the re­searchers say that the saliva test can be an im­por­tant com­po­nent of tar­geted de­worm­ing strate­gies.

Ref­er­ence: “Val­i­da­tion of a novel saliva-based ELISA test for di­ag­nos­ing tape­worm bur­den in horses,” Ve­teri­nary Clin­i­cal Pathol­ogy, pub­lished on­line May 2016

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