BACKGROUND: Horses are host to a plethora of parasites. Knowledge of the seasonality of parasite egg shedding and transmission is important for constructing parasite control programs. However, studies describing these patterns are sparse, and have largely been conducted only in the United Kingdom. This study evaluated strongylid egg shedding patterns and transmission dynamics of Strongylus vulgaris in naturally infected and untreated mares and foals through one calendar year in Kentucky, USA. The study also investigated the existence of a peri-parturient rise (PPR) in strongylid egg counts in foaling mares and collected information about Strongyloides westeri and Parascaris spp. in the foals.

METHODS: This study was conducted from January to December 2018. A herd of 18 mares, one stallion, and 14 foals born in 2018 were followed throughout the year. Sera and feces were collected biweekly from all horses, and worm burdens enumerated in 13 foals at necropsy. An S. vulgaris ELISA antibody test was run on all serum samples. Fecal egg counts were determined for all horses, and coproculture and qPCR assay were employed to test for the presence of S. vulgaris in the mature horses. Data were analyzed using the proc glimmix procedure in the SAS 9.4 software program.

RESULTS: We found a general lack of seasonality in strongylid egg shedding throughout the year among the mature horses, and no PPR was demonstrated. Shedding of S. vulgaris eggs displayed a higher abundance during the spring, but findings were variable and not statistically significant. Anti-S. vulgaris antibody concentrations did not display significant fluctuations in the mature horses, but evidence of passive transfer of antibodies to the foals was demonstrated, and foals assumed their own production of antibodies starting at approximately 20 weeks of age. Overall, colts shed higher numbers of strongylid, ascarid, and S. westeri eggs than fillies.

CONCLUSIONS: This study demonstrated a lack of seasonality in strongylid egg shedding for the study population, which is in stark contrast to previous studies conducted elsewhere. This strongly suggests that more studies should be done investigating these patterns under different climatic conditions.

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Published in Parasites & Vectors, v. 15, article no. 50.

© 2022 The Author(s)

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author upon reasonable request.