Managing anthelmintic resistance in cyathostomin parasites: Investigating the benefits of refugia-based strategies

Dave M. Leathwick, Christian W. Sauermann, Martin K. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Selective anthelmintic therapy has been recommended as a sustainable strategy for cyathostomin control in horse populations for several decades. The traditional approach has been to determine strongyle fecal egg counts (FEC) for all horses, with treatment only recommended for those exceeding a predetermined threshold. The aims are to achieve a reduction of overall egg shedding, while leaving a proportion of the herd untreated, which lowers anthelmintic treatment intensity and reduces selection pressure for development of anthelmintic resistance. This study made use of the cyathostomin model to evaluate the influence of treatment strategies with between 1 and 8 yearly treatment occasions, where either 1) all horses were treated, 2) a predetermined proportion of the herd remained untreated, or 3) horses were treated if their FEC exceeded thresholds between 100 and 600 strongyle eggs per gram. Weather data representing four different climatic zones was used and three different herd age structures were compared; 1) all yearlings, 2) all mature horses 10–20 years old, and 3) a mixed age structure of 1–20 years of age. Results indicated a consistent effect of age structure, with anthelmintic resistance developing quickest in the yearling group and slowest among the mature horses. Development of anthelmintic resistance was affected by treatment intensity and selective therapy generally delayed resistance. Importantly, the results suggest that the effects of selective therapy on resistance development are likely to vary between climatic zones and herd age structures. Overall, a substantial delaying of resistance development requires that the average number of treatments administered annually across a herd of horses needs to be about two or less. However, results also indicate that an age-structured prioritisation of treatment to younger horses should still be effective. It appears that a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to the management of anthelmintic resistance in cyathostomins is unlikely to be optimal.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)118-124
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology: Drugs and Drug Resistance
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 The Authors


  • Anthelmintic resistance
  • Cyathostomin
  • Equine
  • Parasite control
  • Refugia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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