Early detection of Haemonchus contortus infection in sheep using three different faecal occult blood tests
Haemonchus contortus is a blood-sucking parasite causing the presence of faecal occult blood (FOB). The objective was to study three different FOB tests in order to have a new indicator of H. contortus infection in sheep that could be included in the genetic evaluation system as an alternative selection criterion to faecal worm egg count (FEC). A total of 29 Corriedale lambs were experimentally infected with 10.000 larvae of H. contortus. Stool samples were recorded for FEC and FOB tests (Hexagon, Hematest® and Multistix®), blood for packed cell volume (PCV), haemoglobin, white and red blood cell count (RBC), and FAMACHA© for scoring anaemia. At the end of the experiment lambs were slaughtered to worm burden count. Field infection was achieved in 309 Merino lambs under natural parasite challenge. FEC data were normalized through logarithmic transformation (LnFEC). Pearson correlation was estimated to examine the relationship between all traits. The three tests were able to detect the presence of FOB at day 11. FEC, PCV and RBC decreased to sub-normal values from day 18. FAMACHA© score 3 was considered to be indicative of anaemia. Most of the correlations were of high magnitude, with the exception of Multistix® test that was moderately correlated with haematological parameters, LnFEC and FEC. In field infection, most samples were negative to FOB tests and the correlations were lower than those calculated under experimental infection. In conclusion, FOB tests were able to detect haemonchosis earlier than FEC under high experimental parasite challenge. However, they were not able to detect FOB under natural mixed parasite challenge. FAMACHA© and PCV demonstrated to be good indicators of Haemonchosis, having moderate to high correlations with FEC.
Keywords: Faecal occult blood test, Faecal worm egg count, Haemonchosis, Sheep.