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2022 Mar 31

J Equine Vet Sci

Onchocerca cervicalis: A survey into awareness and knowledge of the parasite amongst UK equine veterinarians.


The nematode Onchocerca cervicalis is the most common causative agent of equine onchocerciasis; this condition is characterised by pruritus and dermatitis and is a differential diagnosis for insect bite hypersensitivity. Onchocerciasis is currently presumed of minor importance within the UK, however prevalence may increase if macrocyclic lactone use declines amid concerns about anthelmintic resistance in gastrointestinal nematodes. This survey aimed to establish O. cervicalis awareness and knowledge levels amongst UK equine veterinarians and to determine approximate numbers of UK horses affected with unresponsive cases of dermatoses, including insect bite hypersensitivity. An online survey was distributed to UK equine vets between December 2019 and February 2020. Of 88 respondents, 78% were aware of O. cervicalis, however 49% of these answered less than half the questions presented about the parasite's lifecycle correctly. Approximately 25% of insect bite hypersensitivity cases respondents saw were deemed unresponsive to standard treatments, 84% of respondents had not previously considered onchocerciasis as a differential diagnosis in such cases. Findings suggest knowledge of O. cervicalis amongst UK equine vets is lacking, highlighting a need to raise awareness and consideration of the parasite as a differential when investigating equine dermatoses.