Fungus Battles Equine Internal Parasites 'the Natural Way'

A pile of horse dung is no longer just a pile of horse dung--it is now the stage for the fatal ambush of nematode (roundworm) larvae by a predatory fungus, worthy of screen time on the "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" nature show.

According to a research group based in Australia, if you feed your horse spores of the fungus Duddingtonia flagrans, the spores pass harmlessly through the digestive tract and are deposited in the feces along with eggs shed by adult intestinal parasites.

"The natural fungus Duddingtonia flagrans belongs to a group of nematophagous (worm-eating) fungi that physically entrap nematode larvae by means of adhesive hyphal nets (threadlike filaments in a fungus) before paralyzing and consuming them," relayed Kevin Healey, the research and development manager of International Animal Health Products Pty Ltd, located in Sydney, New South Wales.

"This product, which is still in development, will be effective against gastrointestinal nematodes of horses such as small strongyles," said Healey, "including parasite populations which have acquired resistance to chemical dewormers."

As previously reported on both laboratory and field studies have been performed that support the use of D. flagrans as a suitable agent for the biological control of some parasites in horses.

"We suggest worming the horses with an effective chemical dewormer before moving them onto a clean pasture. The fungal product is then fed in the animals' daily ration during periods of high worm infectivity. Owners are encouraged to monitor worm burdens periodically and employ chemical dewormers when indicated," explained Healey.

"We anticipate that the use of chemical dewormers will be reduced, thereby easing the development of resistance," concluded Healey.

Once developed, the product is anticipated to be available in the United States.

As noted previously by Martin Krarup Nielsen, DVM, PhD, assistant professor at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark, "The fungal spores may not be as efficient as a dewormer, but they will be an excellent alternative. In fact, they will be very suitable for controlling resistant worms and prevent further development of anthelmintic resistance."

Disclaimer: Seek the advice of a qualified veterinarian before proceeding with any diagnosis, treatment, or therapy.