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Association between nematode larvae and “low worm egg count diarrhoea” in sheep in Western Australia

Jacobson, C.ORCID: 0000-0001-9427-1941, Bell, K., Forshaw, D. and Besier, B. (2009) Association between nematode larvae and “low worm egg count diarrhoea” in sheep in Western Australia. Veterinary Parasitology, 165 (1-2). pp. 66-73.

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Nine flocks of sheep with a high prevalence (>30%) of diarrhoea and severe breech faecal soiling were investigated over a three-year period to examine the causes of diarrhoea in sheep with low mean faecal worm egg counts (WEC). All nine flocks were located in the southwest of Western Australia in areas with a winter rainfall pattern (Mediterranean climate). There was no difference (p = 0.304) in WEC of diarrhoeic sheep (loose faeces and severe breech faecal soiling) and "normal sheep" (pelleted faeces and mild or no breech faecal soiling). Teladorsagia (Ostertagia) circumcincta and Trichostrongylus spp. were the nematodes most commonly identified by total worm counts and differentiation of larvae recovered from faeces and pasture. Larval stages of strongyle worms accounted for the largest proportion of total worm counts in both diarrhoeic and normal sheep. Adult worm burdens were small in most sheep. Diarrhoeic sheep had higher numbers of fourth stage larvae than normal sheep (p = 0.046). There was no histopathological evidence of bacterial or viral causes of diarrhoea in any of the flocks or bacteriological evidence of bacterial infections associated with diarrhoea. Two flocks had marginal selenium glutathione peroxidase (selenium) levels. One flock was diagnosed with helminthosis based on rising WEC and high total worm counts. Larval hypersensitivity diarrhoea, nutritional factors or a combination of these two factors were the most likely causes of diarrhoea in the other eight flocks based on exclusion of other known causes of diarrhoea. Treatment with moxidectin and an ivermectin controlled-release capsule did not change faecal moisture content of treated sheep compared to untreated sheep three to five weeks after treatment. The findings suggest that the immune response to strongyle larvae may explain some cases of low WEC diarrhoea observed during winter-spring in immunocompetent mature sheep grazing in Mediterranean environments.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Veterinary and Biomedical Sciences
Publisher: Elsevier BV
Copyright: 2009 Elsevier B.V.
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