A saliva test that can determine a horse’s tapeworm burden is now available in the United States. Developed by researchers with Austin Davis Biologics in England, the EquiSal Tapeworm test has been marketed in the United Kingdom for three years.
Tapeworms are a fairly common intestinal parasite that can cause unthriftiness, diarrhea and colic. They are difficult to detect using standard fecal egg counts, so previously the most reliable method of identifying them was a blood test to measure antibodies specific to tapeworms.
EquiSal Tapeworm works by identifying levels of tapeworm-specific antibodies in a horse’s saliva. To evaluate the efficacy of the new test, researchers used it to analyze the saliva from 104 horses, then compared the results to blood tests and visual inspections of each horse’s intestinal tract (see “An Easier Test for Tapeworms,” Medical Front, EQUUS 469). Not only was the saliva test just as accurate as the blood test at predicting the presence of tapeworms, it was also able to predict the severity of the infestation. A higher saliva score indicated that the horse was carrying a larger number of these parasites.
EquiSal Tapeworm is now being offered for sale in the United States through Horsemen’s Laboratory, a company that also offers a fecal egg count service. The test kit includes a specially designed swab, which horse owners can use to collect a saliva sample. The swab is then placed in a tube containing a special preservative and sent back to Horsemen’s Laboratory, which sends them on to Austin Davis Biologics for testing. Results are emailed back to horse owners along with recommendations about deworming.
Austin Davis Biologics says the test kits will cost about $40, which will include all associated fees for shipping and testing. The company also expects the kits will soon be available through veterinary practices and veterinary pharmacies in the United States. They recommend testing each horse twice per year prior to administering dewormers.
For more information, visit www.horsemenslab.com or equisal.co.uk.
This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #481)