Prevalence and diversity of ascarid and strongylid nematodes in Australian Thoroughbred horses using next-generation sequencing and bioinformatic tools

Ghazanfar Abbas, Abdul Ghafar, Jenni Bauquier, Anne Beasley, Elysia Ling, Charles G. Gauci, Charles El-Hage, Edwina J.A. Wilkes, Emma McConnell, Peter Carrigan, Lucy Cudmore, John Hurley, Ian Beveridge, Martin K. Nielsen, Mark A. Stevenson, Caroline Jacobson, Kristopher J. Hughes, Abdul Jabbar

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7 Scopus citations


The study presents the results of a cross-sectional survey to describe the epidemiology of ascarid and strongylid nematodes in horses, the impact of diverse climatic conditions on parasite diversity and the levels of faecal egg shedding in different age groups of managed Thoroughbred horses. Individual faecal samples (n = 1377) collected from 62 Thoroughbred farms across four climatic zones in Australia were analysed using the modified McMaster technique for faecal egg counts (FECs) and strongylid nematodes were identified utilising PCR-directed next-generation sequencing (NGS) of the second internal transcribed spacer of the nuclear ribosomal DNA (ITS-2). Across all age groups, the prevalence of ascarid and strongylid nematodes was 12% (95% confidence interval 10–14%) and 72% (70–74%), respectively. Based on strongylid FECs, yearlings had the highest prevalence (89%) followed by weanlings (83%), foals (79%), wet mares (61%), dry mares (59%) and stallions (54%). However, for Parascaris spp., foals had the highest prevalence (46%) followed by weanlings (32%) and yearlings (13%). The highest mean FECs for Parascaris spp. were observed in foals (418 eggs per gram [EPG] of faeces) while those for strongylids were in yearlings (1002 EPG). Of the adult horses (mares and stallions), 67% (489 of 729) and 11% (77 of 729) were low (i.e., ≤250 EPG) and moderate (i.e., 251–500 EPG) strongylid egg-shedders, respectively. Strongylid egg shedding varied across climatic zones, with the highest mean FECs in the summer rainfall (723 EPG) followed by non-seasonal rainfall (629 EPG), winter rainfall (613 EPG), and Mediterranean (606 EPG) rainfall zones. Twenty-three nematode species were detected using NGS, with Cylicostephanus longibursatus (28%), Cylicocyclus nassatus (23%) and Coronocyclus coronatus (23%), being the most abundant species. Three species of Strongylus (i.e., S. vulgaris, S. equinus and S. edentatus) were also detected. The nemabiome composition, species richness and relative abundance varied within horse age and between climatic zones. These empirical findings provide a comprehensive understanding of the prevalence of parasites within horse populations and the multifaceted factors that influence their occurrence, thereby allowing for the formulation of tailored strategies aimed at parasite control in domestic horses.

Original languageEnglish
Article number110048
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
StatePublished - Nov 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Authors


  • Australia
  • Climatic zones
  • Cyathostomins
  • Faecal egg counts
  • Intestinal nematodes
  • Nemabiome
  • Next-generation sequencing
  • Parascaris spp.
  • Strongylus spp.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary


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