Precision of cyathostomin luminal worm counts: Investigation of storage duration and fixative

Mackenzie A. Smith, Alyssa B. Carpenter, Martin K. Nielsen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Essentially all grazing horses are infected with cyathostomin parasites. Adult cyathostomins reside in the large intestine of the horse and larval stages encyst within intestinal mucosa. Manual worm collection from aliquots of intestinal content is the current gold standard for retrieval and enumeration of luminal parasites, however, no research has been conducted to standardize specific parameters for processing and storage of samples. The aims of this study were (1) to evaluate the precision of current standard operating procedures for enumeration of luminal adult cyathostomin populations, (2) investigate the influence of chosen fixative, either 70 % ethanol or 10 % buffered formalin, as well as storage duration, immediately post necropsy vs. stored for eight weeks, on the magnitude and precision of worm counts, and (3) compare the luminal count magnitude between the three intestinal segments (cecum, ventral colon, dorsal colon). Ten miniature horses were enrolled in this study for euthanasia and necropsy over a four-week period. Luminal worm counts were conducted for 2 % aliquots of the cecum, ventral colon, and dorsal colon and samples were allocated to the two fixatives and the two storage durations. Precision was evaluated by coefficient of variation (CV) and was 13.04 % for total cyathostomin counts. Mean CV for large intestinal segments ranged from 15.31 % to 52.50 % irrespective of fixative used or storage duration. cecum worm counts were significantly lower compared to the ventral colon (p = 0.008) and dorsal colon (p = 0.01). Fixative and storage duration were not statistically associated with count precision or magnitude. This study demonstrated moderate to high precision estimates for luminal cyathostomin worm counts but did not identify any effects of fixative and storage duration within the framework of the study. This is the first study to determine cyathostomin worm count precision, and results will be useful for power analyses in the future.

Original languageEnglish
Article number109773
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
StatePublished - Sep 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors gratefully thank Holli Gravatte, Jennifer Cain, Constance Finnerty, and Nichol Ripley for their invaluable contributions to necropsy collection and sample processing. We would also like to acknowledge the University of Kentucky research farm crew including Chad Tucker, Mason Mulholland and Chip Stamper for their care and management of the horses as well as the Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory staff, Eva Langlois, Susan Minnis, and Amanda Burkhart, led by Sara Welsh.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Elsevier B.V.


  • Burden
  • Estimation
  • Horse
  • Repeatability
  • Strongyle

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Veterinary (all)


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