Detection and semi-quantification of Strongylus vulgaris DNA in equine faeces by real-time quantitative PCR

Martin K. Nielsen, David S. Peterson, Jesper Monrad, Stig M. Thamsborg, Susanne N. Olsen, Ray M. Kaplan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


Strongylus vulgaris is an important strongyle nematode with high pathogenic potential infecting horses world-wide. Several decades of intensive anthelmintic use has virtually eliminated clinical disease caused by S. vulgaris, but has also caused high levels of anthelmintic resistance in equine small strongyle (cyathostomin) nematodes. Recommendations aimed at limiting the development of anthelmintic resistance by reducing treatment intensity raises a simultaneous demand for reliable and accurate diagnostic tools for detecting important parasitic pathogens. Presently, the only means available to differentiate among strongyle species in a faecal sample is by identifying individual L3 larvae following a two week coproculture procedure. The aim of the present study is to overcome this diagnostic obstacle by developing a fluorescence-based quantitative PCR assay capable of identifying S. vulgaris eggs in faecal samples from horses. Species-specific primers and a TaqMan® probe were designed by alignment of published ribosomal DNA sequences of the second internal transcribed spacer of cyathostomin and Strongylus spp. nematodes. The assay was tested for specificity and optimized using genomic DNA extracted from identified male worms of Strongylus and cyathostomin species. In addition, eggs were collected from adult female worms and used to evaluate the quantitative potential of the assay. Statistically significant linear relationships were found between egg numbers and cycle of threshold (Ct) values. PCR results were unaffected by the presence of cyathostomin DNA in the sample and there was no indication of PCR inhibition by faecal sources. A field evaluation on faecal samples obtained from four Danish horse farms revealed a good agreement with the traditional larval culture (κ-value = 0.78), but with a significantly higher performance of the PCR assay. An association between Ct values and S. vulgaris larval counts was statistically significant. The present assay can reliably and semi-quantitatively detect minute quantities of S. vulgaris eggs in faecal samples.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)443-453
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Mar 2008


  • Diagnosis
  • Horse
  • Quantification
  • Real-time PCR
  • Strongylus vulgaris
  • TaqMan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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