Haemonchus contortus (Barber’s pole worm) in small ruminants

Haemonchus contortus, also known as Barber’s pole worm, is a gastrointestinal parasite infecting small ruminants worldwide. Heavy infections of Haemonchus contortus, particularly in goats and sheep, can lead to anemia, weight loss, decreased milk production, poor wool growth, edema, and death.

The current method for the identification of Haemonchus contortus involves the lengthy process of larval cultivation, which can take up to 2 weeks to perform. Because of this, there are very few labs that offer this test. WADDL offers the Haemonchus contortus fluorescent assay which can provide identification of Haemonchus contortus within 2-3 days of receiving the sample.

Q: What animals are affected by Haemonchus contortus?

A: Haemonchus contortus can be found in small ruminants and camelids but is most detrimental to goats and sheep.

Q: What do the test results mean?

A: There will be two sets of results for this test, results for a fecal float and results for the fluorescent test. The fecal float will be used to determine if there are enough strongyle-type ova in the sample to warrant performing the fluorescent test. The results for the fecal float will be given in Eggs Per Gram (EPG) and the quantity of strongyle-type ova will be basis for the results of the fluorescent test. The fluorescent test results provide the percentage of Haemonchus contortus ova that are fluorescing. Results are given in the form of a Positive percentage, or a Negative. A Negative result means that of all the strongyle-type ova detected in the fecal float, none of them (0%) are Haemonchus contortus. A Negative result is not a guarantee that the animal is not infected, as they may be recently infected or may not be shedding ova in significant enough quantities to detect. If symptoms persist or Haemonchus contortus remains a concern, it may be prudent to recollect and resubmit a sample after a month has passed. A Positive percentage result means that of all the strongyle-type ova in the sample, some of the ova were identified as Haemonchus contortus. The result will be given as a percentage value which indicates how many of the strongyle-type ova seen in the fecal float were fluorescing, indicating that they are Haemonchus contortus.

Q: How should sample should be submitted?

A: Collect fresh feces that is free of feed or bedding debris and secure it in a leakproof container. Do not freeze the sample. Refrigerate it until ready to be shipped, preferably within 24 hours of collection. Samples should ideally be received 1 day after shipping, and it is ideal to ship the sample overnight. Ship fecal samples with an ice pack in a leakproof container. This is especially important during the summer months, and it may be necessary to include more than one ice pack to ensure that the sample remains cool. Please wrap primary container in a sealable bag to help contain the sample if damaged during transit. Minimum volume needed for testing is 3-5 grams, or about the size of a golf ball. If insufficient sample size is received, test may not yield any results.