Managing anthelmintic resistance : Untreated adult ewes as a source of unselected parasites , and their role in reducing parasite populations

Managing anthelmintic resistance : Untreated adult ewes as a source of unselected parasites , and their role in reducing parasite populations
Peer reviewed

Abstract

AIMS: To test the hypotheses that when untreated adult ewes are rotationally grazed (follow behind) on pastures after lambs receiving routine anthelmintic treatments, the ewes can function as a source of unselected parasites in refugia, capable of slowing the development of anthelmintic resistance, and suppress the build-up of parasites resulting from the development of anthelmintic resistance.
METHODS: Firstly, the potential of untreated adult ewes to slow the development of anthelmintic resistance, and to suppress parasite populations under differing levels of anthelmintic efficacy, was investigated using a simulation model. Secondly, a field trial with three replicates of each treatment compared two grazing systems (lambs only vs lambs followed by ewes) and two types of anthelmintic, viz albendazole (ALB), to which resistance was present (faecal nematode egg count reduction (FECR)=57– 59%) and ivermectin plus levamisole (IL), to which resistance was absent (FECR=97–99%), in a factorial treatment structure. Parasite populations were monitored using faecal nematode egg counts (FEC), faecal larval cultures, pasture larval sampling, and slaughter of tracer lambs. Animal performance was measured using liveweight, dag score, body condition score, and fleece weights.
RESULTS: Model simulations indicated that parasites cycling in the untreated ewes could slow the development of resistance being selected for by the anthelmintic treatments given to lambs and this could occur without a nett increase in larval numbers on pasture. Further, as worm control in the lambs declined with increasing levels of anthelmintic resistance the ewes increasingly functioned as nett removers of parasite larvae, effectively reducing parasite population size. In the field trial, untreated adult ewes contributed to pasture infestations of most parasite species, but not Nematodirus spp. Parasite species on pasture and infecting lambs changed when ewes were present, but larval populations on pasture in the autumn were no greater than when lambs grazed alone. In the presence of anthelmintic resistance, parasite populations were reduced when ewes grazed in rotation with lambs, implicating the ewes as nett removers of parasite challenge.
CONCLUSIONS: Untreated adult ewes were a source of unselected genotypes, capable of slowing the development of anthelmintic resistance in most, but not all, parasite species. Further, the potential of adult ewes to remove from pasture more parasite larvae than they contribute through faecal contamination indicates a potentially useful role in suppressing parasite populations, particularly when worm control in lambs is less effective as a result of anthelmintic resistance.
KEY WORDS: Anthelmintic resistance, refugia, ewes, lambs, larvae on pasture

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