Synopsis: In the latest episode of “The Parasite Journey of the Horse” series by equine parasitologist Martin Nielsen, we learn about the good doctor’s “pet parasite” — the bloodworm or Strongylus vulgaris.
“It’s the one I’ve worked with the most and I did my entire PhD on it, so I’m really excited to share this knowledge,” Nielsen says. He describes it as the “marinara meat sauce of parasites that doesn’t seem to be the smartest of the bunch”.
But this large strongyle has often been called the most dangerous parasite in horses. “It has been called ‘the horse killer’, and there is something to that,” Nielsen says. “There are some distinct lesions this parasite can cause.”
Thankfully, major problems are rare: “It is not in the interests of the parasite to kill the horse. That’s kinda stupid.”
Speaking on the lifecycle of the bloodworm, Nielsen describes how they make their way into the intestinal blood vessels and then migrate upstream, all the way up to the aorta, which is the main blood vessel supplying the entire body, where they hang out for about four months. After that, they head back to the intestine where they produce their offspring. The whole process takes about six months.
The good news is that no resistance to bloodworm has been developed. “We don’t know if it is ever going to. Any dewormed on the shelf will work against bloodworms,” Nielsen says.
Nielsen’s videos fall into one of three categories: short videos addressing common misconceptions about parasite control; longer educational videos outlining important concepts in parasite control; and videos that inform viewers about current findings, research needs and the importance of UK’s equine research herds.
“As a university researcher, I have an obligation to communicate about my area of research to the public. I am constantly searching for the most efficient way to do so. In this day and age, it seems obvious to communicate about these things on social media,” Nielsen said.
“I hope to get some useful information into the hands of horse owners, farm managers and equine veterinarians — and to build some awareness about some of the work we do at the Gluck Center.
“I wanted to try to address common misconceptions and myths in equine parasite control. In this series, I’ll address one myth or misconception at a time and in 45 seconds or less, I will explain why it is exactly that — a myth or misconception. These will be interspersed with a few longer videos providing more background information and highlighting recent research findings.”