Date Available


Year of Publication


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation


Agriculture, Food and Environment


Animal and Food Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Mary G. Rossano

Second Advisor

Dr. Eric Vanzant


Parascaris equorum is a nematode parasite that infects young horses, sometimes causing unthriftiness, respiratory signs, or intestinal impaction in severe cases. Infection can be diagnosed by detection of eggs in feces, but this is only possible after the worms are fully mature. The goal of this study was to develop an antibody-based test for prepatent diagnosis of P. equorum infection. To produce western blot (WB) antigen, P. equorum larvae were cultured for collection of excretory-secretory antigens (ESA). Sera from 18 pregnant broodmares, their subsequent foals, and a group of 12 older mares and geldings were analyzed. In order to check for cross-reactivity between P. equorum and other ascarid species and equine parasites, additional sera were analyzed. Sera from a horse with monospecific P. equorum infection was compared to horses with monospecific Strongyloides westeri or cyathostome infections, rabbits inoculated with Baylisascaris procyonis or Toxocara canis eggs, dogs naturally infected with T. canis, and rabbits immunized with B. procyonis or P. equorum ESA. Molecular weights of silver-stained P. equorum larval ESA ranged between 12 to 94 kDa. In WB analysis, sera from 94% of broodmares contained IgG(T) antibody that recognized multiple P. equorum larval ESA. Foals showed no IgG(T) antibodies pre-suckle, but antibodies similar to their dams were observed post-suckle and thereafter. Of the older mares and geldings, 58% had IgG(T) antibodies recognizing larval ESA. Serum IgG(T) antibodies against P. equorum larval ESA were also found in parasite-free and monospecific infection equine sera. Ascarid positive foals did not produce detectable amounts of IgE or IgM antibodies against larval ESA. When P. equorum, T. canis, and B. procyonis antibody reactivity was compared, antigens at 19 kDa and 34 kDa had the highest potential for identification of larval P. equorum infections. When immature adult P. equorum ESA was examined, IgG(T) antibody recognition was demonstrated in 50% of broodmares and 17% of the older horses, and appeared several weeks prior to patency in foal serum. Results indicate that IgG(T) antibodies against P. equorum ESA are common in mature horses, and are transferred from mare to foal, limiting the diagnostic potential of an antibody-based test.