The work, carried out by Dr Mulugeta Getachew formed part of his PhD studies and was funded by the Donkey Sanctuary.
He conducted a serological survey of donkeys from four different geographical regions of Ethiopia. Blood samples were collected from 797 donkeys, that had been naturally exposed to tapeworm infection. None had never been treated for tapeworms.
The tapeworm ELISA test, developed for use in horses, was used to detect parasite-specific serum antibody, IgG(T), in the serum of donkeys. A pilot study had confirmed that the test was suitable for use with donkey sera.
Dr Getachew found substantial serological evidence that donkeys were potentially infected with the tapeworm Anoplocehala perfoliata.
Overall, most animals harboured few parasites and a few donkeys were infected with
large number of parasites. The results indicated that 26% and 8% of the donkeys were moderately and highly infected, respectively. The remainder had low infection intensity or were negative for A. perfoliata infection.
He found a marked difference between results from different regions of the country. Bereh, a mountainous region, had significantly more moderately (51.2%) or highly (23.5%) infected donkeys, than the other midland or lowland regions.
He explains that, in contrast to the other regions studied, Bereh is characterized by pastures that are low-lying and wet, with wide areas of permanent pasture specifically kept for animals and for haymaking.This is likely to result in favourable environmental conditions for the survival and development of both the oribatid mites that are the tapeworm's intermediate host and the tapeworm eggs.
He concludes: “The finding of high sero-prevalence of cestode (tapeworm) infection, which is consistent with the results of coprological and post-mortem findings clearly indicates that cestodosis is one of the major parasitic problems in the donkey population of Ethiopia.”
“These results indicate a risk of intestinal disorders, particularly, colic, associated with A. perfoliata infection in donkeys.”
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