Diagnosing Strongylus vulgaris in pooled fecal samples

Martin K. Nielsen, Chelsea Facison, Jessica A. Scare, Avery N. Martin, Holli S. Gravatte, Ashley E. Steuer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Strongylus vulgaris is the most pathogenic intestinal helminth parasite infecting horses. The migrating larvae in the mesenteric blood vessels can cause non-strangulating intestinal infarctions, which have a guarded prognosis for survival. Infections are typically diagnosed by coproculture, but a PCR test is available in some countries. While it is ideal to test horses individually, many veterinarians and clients wish to pool samples to reduce workload and cost of the diagnostic method. The purpose of this study was to determine if pooling of fecal samples would negatively impact diagnostic performance of the coproculture and the PCR for determination of S. vulgaris infection. Ten horses with strongylid eggs per gram (EPG) >500 and confirmed as either S. vulgaris positive or negative were selected as fecal donors. Eight pools with feces from five horses were created with 0%, 10 %, 20 %, 30 %, 40 %, 50 %, 80 %, and 100 % S. vulgaris positive feces. From each pool, 20 subsamples of 10 g each were collected and analyzed. Half of these samples were set up for coproculture and the other half for PCR. All pools containing 50 % or greater S. vulgaris positive feces were detected positive by both PCR and coproculture. In the pools with less than 50 % S. vulgaris positive feces, the PCR detected 33 positive samples compared to 24 with the coproculture. Three samples from the 0% pool were detected as low-level PCR positives, but this could be due to contamination. These results indicate that diagnosing S. vulgaris on pooled samples is reliable, when at least 50 % of the feces in a pool are from S. vulgaris positive animals. Since S. vulgaris remains relatively rare in managed horses, however, some diagnostic sensitivity is expected to be lost with a pooled sample screening approach. Nonetheless, pooled sample screening on farms could still be considered useful under some circumstances, and the PCR generally performed better at the lower proportions of S. vulgaris positive feces.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109494
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
StatePublished - Aug 2021

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.


  • Coproculture
  • Detection
  • Large strongyle
  • Larval culture
  • PCR

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary


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