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Research article2004Peer reviewed

The epidemiology of abomasal nematodes of sheep in Sweden, with particular reference to over-winter survival strategies

Waller PJ, Rudby-Martin L, Ljungstrom BL, Rydzik A


In May 2002, studies on the seasonal patterns of nematode infection of sheep were undertaken on four commercial sheep farms in southern Sweden, which had previously reported problems with nematode parasitism, especially due to Haemonchus contortus. One farm was used for intensive investigation. This entailed the establishment of two replicate groups of sheep, each consisting of 20 ewes and their lambs, on adjacent pasture paddocks. The seasonal patterns of nematode infection were followed by regular (approximately monthly) sampling of both ewes and lambs for nematode faecal egg counts and larval differentiation, and the sequential use of replicate groups of tracer lambs. H. contortus and Teladorsagia circumcincta were the most abundant nematode species, with the former most prevalent in the post-parturient faecal egg counts of ewes. Tracer worm counts showed almost 100% arrested development in the early fourth larval stage for H. contortus as early as mid-summer and the numbers of parasites progressively increased during the season. T. circumcincta also showed high levels of arrested development, but not as early, or as absolute, as for H. contortus. Tracers allocated to the paddocks at the time of turn-out following winter in May 2003, showed virtually a total absence of H. contortus in contrast to exceedingly high infections with T. circumcincta. Results of the three additional monitoring flocks supported these findings. It can be concluded that under Swedish sheep farming conditions, H. contortus has evolved to survive the long, cold winters entirely within the host as the arrested larval stage, relying on the lambing ewe to complete its life cycle. The peri-parturient relaxation of resistance in the ewes triggers the resumption of development to the adult egg-laying parasites to result in pasture contamination and the completion of just one parasite generation/year. In contrast, T. circumcincta can survive well over-winter, both on pasture and within the host. (C) 2004 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved

Published in

Veterinary Parasitology
2004, Volume: 122, number: 3, pages: 207-220

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