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Research article2019Peer reviewedOpen access

Detection of Haemonchus contortus on sheep farms increases using an enhanced sampling protocol combined with PCR based diagnostics

Hoglund, Johan; Elmahalawy, Safaa T.; Halvarsson, Peter; Gustafsson, Katarina


An enhanced sampling strategy for detection of gastrointestinal parasites of sheep based on faecal sampling covering approximately 10% of the animals in the flock was evaluated with focus on the major sheep pathogen Haemonchus contortus. We also compared traditional diagnostics based on faecal eggs counts (FEC) by microscopy with DNA detection on frozen faeces samples using a droplet digital (dd) PCR assay. The investigation was carried out in 2018 in 20 conventional and 19 organic sheep flocks in Sweden with between 70 and 250 production ewes. On 76 different sampling occasions a total of 810 individual faecal samples were collected. Samples were pooled in the laboratory into 270 triplets which were examined both by microscopy and a ddPCR assay. On most farms (95%) a minimum of three triplets were investigated, first from the ewes prior to turn-out and later from the lambs after they had been grazing for at least six weeks. Extra information about the Haemonchus status was provided on 48% of the 76 sampling occasions by including more triplets compared with the old sampling strategy applied in Sweden before 2015 based on two triplets per sampling occasion irrespective of flock size. At a farmlevel H. contortus was identified by microscopy in 22 (56%) of the 39 flocks and by ddPCR it was found in 28 (72%) flocks with the enhanced protocol. There was a substantial agreement between the two diagnostic tests (Cohens kappa = 0.70 +/- 0.087). No significant differences in infection levels were observed between the two production systems (conventional and organic) irrespective of the diagnostic method used. However, samples from the ewes were more often Haemonchus positive than those from the lambs indicating that the level of parasite control was in general acceptable. Combined, our results show that Haemonchus infection is widespread throughout Sweden. In conclusion, we have validated a practical tool for sheep producers to assess Haemonchus infection with high precision.


Parasites; Nematode; Screening method; Sampling; Diagnostics; ddPCR; McMaster; Faecal egg count; Organic farming

Published in

Veterinary Parasitology
2019, Volume: 276, article number: 100018
Publisher: ELSEVIER