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Signs of multiple anthelmintic resistance in sheep gastrointestinal nematodes in Sweden

Last changed: 02 March 2023
Ewe on pasture

Gastrointestinal nematodes in small ruminants are clinically and economically important parasites that often are controlled with anthelmintics. In this study, we compiled information on the anthelmintic efficacy collected on sheep farms according to routines established by Farm & Animal Health in Sweden.

The efficacies of benzimidazoles (i.e. albendazole or fenbendazole, n=30), ivermectin (n = 47), levamisole (n = 2) or moxidectin (n = 2) were examined between 2015 and 2021 in 81 treatment groups on 49 non-randomly selected farms in south-central Sweden. Drug efficacies were estimated with the faecal egg count reduction test. In addition, efficacy data were in most cases supplemented with data on the abundance of the three most common nematode genera in sheep by performing droplet digital (dd) PCR on coprocultures.

Efficacies of <95% for benzimidazoles or ivermectin were identified in 37% and 77% of the tested groups, respectively. In addition, on 27 (55%) of the 49 farms where both benzimidazoles and ivermectin were tested, multiple resistance was found on 8 (30%). In contrast, on each of the two farms tested for levamisole and moxidectin both drugs proved to be 100% effective. However, because post-sampling was performed earlier than recommended in several susceptible groups (benzimidazoles = 15, and ivermectin = 10 groups), this could have underestimated the severity of the situation. Mainly larvae from the genus Haemonchus were detected in post-treatment coprocultures, in all groups with declared resistance, suggesting that this parasite was primarily associated with anthelmintic resistance. Unexpectedly, the DNA of larvae, which survived treatment, was also detected on farms declared as susceptible.

Taken together, this indicates that the situation regarding the anthelmintic efficacy has deteriorated compared with the latest nationwide study on Swedish sheep farms conducted more than a decade ago. Unlike the previous study, the farm selection here was not strictly randomized but rather opportunistic i.e., only farms with a recognized parasite problem were included. Thus, there is a need for a truly randomized study to get an update on the extent of the situation of anthelmintic resistance at a national level, as well as to identify risk factors involved in the resistance selection. Research is also required to establish the optimal intervals for sampling post-treatment.

Link to the publication

Signs of multiple anthelmintic resistance in sheep gastrointestinal nematodes in Sweden - ScienceDirect


Höglund J, Baltrušis P, Enweji N, Gustafsson K. 2022. Signs of multiple anthelmintic resistance in sheep gastrointestinal nematodes in Sweden. Veterinary Parasitology: Regional Studies and Reports, 36, 100789, ISSN 2405-9390,


Johan Höglund
Professor at the Department of Biomedical Science and Veterinary Public Health; Parasitology Unit

Telephone: 018-672371, 070-2574156