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PRESS RELEASE: Research into equine small redworm blood test now published

Equine small redworm

Research underpinning the commercialised blood test for diagnosing small redworm (cyathostomin) infections in horses has been published in the International Journal of Parasitology1.

The paper describes the research undertaken to define the final format of the test which was developed at the Moredun Research Institute and commercialised by Austin Davis Biologics in September 2019.

A new antigen was discovered to be important in accurately identifying cyathostomin burdens when combined with previously identified cyathostomin antigens in an enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) detecting cyathostomin-specific IgG(T) antibodies in horse serum. This three-antigen cocktail was identified as being the most suitable for a commercial test to detect all stages of the small redworm life cycle, including the all-important encysted larval phase. Until now it has not been possible to test for encysted small redworm as faecal egg counts only detect the presence of egg laying adult worms.

Small redworms are the most common gastrointestinal parasites to infect horses. When horses harbour a large burden of encysted larvae that emerge en masse from the intestinal wall clinical symptoms develop, such as diarrhoea and colic, which can be fatal (larval cyathostominosis). Moxidectin is the only dewormer capable of eliminating these encysted stages for which worm resistance is not known to be widespread. To protect the effectiveness of this dewormer, targeted treatment programmes are required to ensure that the drug is only administered when it is really needed.

Blood test results are intended to complete a ‘diagnostic profile’ for veterinarians along with historical faecal egg count results and assessment of grazing management to enable decisions to treat/not treat an individual horse or group.

Professor Jacqui Matthews, Chief Technology Officer at Roslin Technologies and Inventor of the test, said, “This research paper describes the selection of antigens that provide coverage for detecting the commonest cyathostomin species found globally“.

Dr Corrine Austin, Director at Austin Davis Biologics, commented, “Publication of this research is important as it provides veterinarians with additional evidence of the commercial test’s accuracy. Following on from this published research, we conducted additional validation and optimisation of the test for use on robotic systems.”

Dr Stewart Burgess, Principal Investigator at the Moredun Research Institute commented, “The availability of the test greatly benefits evidence-based worm control in horses and fills an important gap in the diagnostic toolbox for equine veterinarians”.

1.Tzelos, T., et al (2020). Characterisation of serum IgG(T) responses to potential diagnostic antigens for equine cyathostominosis. International Journal for Parasitology 50, 289–298.






Notes to editors

  1. Moredun Research Institute conducts internationally recognised research on the infectious diseases of livestock, caused by important viruses, bacteria and parasites. It employs scientists and vets that work to improve animal welfare, ensure food safety, reduce adverse impacts on the environment, and to contribute to sustainable communities through economic development across Scotland and beyond. Moredun’s research focuses on understanding the interaction of the disease pathogen with the host species, in identifying new targets for improved diagnostic tests and in development of novel vaccines for many diseases. For further details visit www.moredun.org.uk

  2. Austin Davis Biologics Ltd is a family-run diagnostic and life sciences business which provides the EquiSal® Tapeworm, tapeworm blood testing and small redworm blood testing services. For more information visit https://www.austindavis.co.uk/ or contact [email protected]

  3. The small redworm blood test is available as a commercial service from Austin Davis Biologics https://www.austindavis.co.uk/small-redworm-blood-test

  4. Development of the diagnostic blood test involved funding from the Horserace Betting Levy Board http://www.hblb.org.uk and the Horse Trust http://www.horsetrust.org.uk/

  5. Equine cyathostomins. Further information about the control of equine cyathostomin infection can be found on the following websites:

Moredun Research Institute: https://www.moredun.org.uk/research/diseases/parasitic-roundworms-equine

National Animal Disease Information Service http://www.nadis.org.uk/bulletins/endoparasite-control-in-horses.aspx