Real-time PCR evaluation of strongylus vulgaris in horses on farms in Denmark and Central Kentucky

M. K. Nielsen, S. N. Olsen, E. T. Lyons, J. Monrad, S. M. Thamsborg

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25 Scopus citations


Strongyle parasites are ubiquitous in grazing horses, and the large strongyle Strongylus vulgaris is considered the most pathogenic helminth parasite of horses. Recent investigations have suggested an association between occurrence of this parasite and usage of selective therapy based on regular fecal egg counts. The established diagnostic method for S. vulgaris involves larval culture and subsequent morphological identification of third stage larvae under the microscope. Recently, a real-time PCR assay was developed and validated for the detection and semi-quantification of S. vulgaris eggs in equine fecal samples. The purposes of the present study were (a) to determine the presence of S. vulgaris by real-time PCR in Danish and American horses on farms using vastly different anthelmintic treatment regimens and (b) to evaluate the association between larval culture results and the PCR. A total of 991 horses representing 53 different horse farms in Denmark and Central Kentucky were studied. Fresh fecal samples were collected from all horses, and strongyle eggs retrieved for DNA extraction and subsequent real-time PCR analysis. Individual larval cultures were performed on the Danish part of the data set (663 horses on 42 farms). On the Danish farms, the S. vulgaris PCR prevalence was found to be 9.2% on farms not basing parasite control on fecal egg counts, and 14.1% on farms using selective therapy. No horses were PCR positive in the American part of the study (328 horses on 11 farms). Kappa-values indicated a moderate agreement between PCR and larval culture results, while McNemar tests revealed no statistical difference between the paired proportions. Significant associations were found between PCR cycle of threshold (Ct) value groups and larval culture counts. Results indicate that both diagnostic methods can be useful for determining the occurrence of S. vulgaris on horse farms, but that they both are affected by potential sources of error. The PCR results confirmed previous findings suggesting that S. vulgaris can reemerge under selective therapy regimens.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)461-466
Number of pages6
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - Dec 21 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Laboratory technicians Tina Roust, Maria Rhod, Ida Trondhjem Haakanson, and scientific assistant Dr. Maria Mathilde Haugaard are warmly thanked for invaluable help with sample processing in the laboratory. The study was funded by Danish Research Council's Agency for Science, Technology and Production , grant number 274-08-0081 .


  • Larval culture
  • Prevalence
  • Real-time PCR
  • Strongylus vulgaris
  • Treatment intensity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • General Veterinary


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