Equis ISSN 2398-2977

Tapeworm: Equisal saliva test

Contributor(s): Lee Pritchard, Rachael Conwell


  • Anoplocephala perfoliata  Anoplocephala spp  is the most common tapeworm affecting horses worldwide; they can grow to 8 cm long and typically affect the ileocecal junction and cecal wall.
  • Other, less commonly reported equine tapeworms are Anoplocephala magna and Anoplocephaloides mamillana.
  • A. perfoliata has been found in many countries worldwide; prevalence varies widely between regions and climates and also depends on the diagnostic method used to identify presence of the parasite.
  • Tapeworm burdens Tapeworm infection have been implicated in numerous diseases, including spasmodic colic, ileal impaction, thickening of the ileocecal junction, cecal perforation and possibly intussusception.
  • Intensity of infection is important with relation to clinical disease:
    • Tapeworm infection intensity has been significantly associated with increased risk of colic.
    • Low burdens (<20 tapeworm) are often considered to be associated with minimal risk of disease.

Print off the Owner factsheets All about worms and Worm control to give to your clients.


  • The Equisal® tapeworm test uses equine saliva to test for Anoplocephala perfoliata antibodies.
  • The test is designed to be used by owners to determine tapeworm burden and aid in formulating an effective parasite control program.
  • Unpublished data reports the sensitivity of the saliva test as 83% and specificity of 85%.
  • Allows assessment of tapeworm burden prior to deciding whether anthelmintic treatment is required, as well as in the investigation of acute and chronic colic cases.


  • Owner accessible.
  • Simple and minimally invasive to perform.
  • Allows formation of a targeted/selective deworming program, limiting unnecessary use of anthelmintics and slowing the development of parasite resistance.
  • Reports similar sensitivity and specificity to the current available serological test.


  • Removes aspects of parasite control and decision-making re anthelmintic use away from veterinary surgeons as owners will not necessarily consult them about results.
  • False positives can occur; microscopic larvae or immature tapeworms will trigger an immune response, especially if the horse has had a previous high burden.
  • Recent tapeworm treatment will eliminate active tapeworm infection, but tapeworm-specific antibodies will still remain giving a false positive (the test instructions advise not to test after recent tapeworm treatment).
  • Potential cross-reaction with antibodies produced by other infections, not specifically Anoplocephala perfoliata. However, one study reports no cross reactivity between Anoplecephala perfoliata 12/13 kDa antigen and sera from those negative for Anoplocephala perfoliata.
  • Relies on antibody levels and as such there will be variability due to individual immune responses. Despite these potential biological variations, the data supporting its use demonstrated positive correlation between antibody levels and tapeworm numbers.
  • Horses with 1-19 tapeworms are classed as having a moderate burden and are included together with the high burden (>20 tapeworm) group for statistical analysis and reporting. As fewer than 20 tapeworm are often considered to be associated with minimal risk of disease, this test does not differentiate between the moderate burden (low risk) and high burden (high risk) horses.


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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Bohorquez G A et al (2015) New multiplex PCR method for the simultaneous diagnosis of the three know species of equine tapeworm. Vet Parasitol 207 (1-2), 56-63 PubMed.
  • Anderson U V et al (2013) Recent advances in diagnosing pathogenic equine gastrointestinal helminths: the challenge of prepatent detection. Vet Parasit 192 (1-3), 1-9 PubMed.
  • Back H et al (2013) The association between Anoplocephala perfoliata and colic in Swedish horses - a case control study. Vet Parasitol 197 (3-4), 580-585 PubMed.
  • Pavone S et al (2011) Pathological changes caused by Anoplocephala perfoliata in the mucosa/ submucosa and in the enteric nervous system of equine ileocecal junction. Vet Parasitol 176 (1), 43-52 PubMed.
  • Bell R J W & Textor J A (2010) Caecal intussusceptions in horses: a New Zealand perspective. Aust Vet J 88 (7), 272-276 PubMed.
  • Kaplan R M & Nielsen M K (2010) An evidence-based approach to equine parasite control: It ain't the 60s anymore. Equine Vet Educ 22 (6), 306-316 VetMedResource.
  • Skotarek S L et al (2010) Evaluation of diagnostic techniques for Anoplocephala perfoliata in horses from Alberta, Canada. Vet Parasitol 172 (3-4), 249-255 PubMed.
  • Abbott J B & Bennett E J (2008) The problem of diagnosing tapeworm infections in horses. Equine Vet J 40 (1), 5-6 PubMed.
  • Kjaer L N et al (2007) Interpretation of serum antibody response to Anoplocephala perfoliata in relation to parasite burden and faecal egg count. Equine Vet J 39 (6), 529-533 PubMed.
  • Slocombe J O, Heine J, Barutzki D & Slacek B (2007) Clinical trial of efficacy of praziquantel horse paste 9% against tapeworm and its safety in horses. Vet Parasitol 144 (3-4), 366-370 PubMed.
  • Gasser R B et al (2005) Anoplocephala perfoliata of horses significant scope for further research, improved diagnosis and control. Parasitol 131 (Pt 1), 1-13 PubMed.
  • Kania S A & Reinemeyer C R (2005) Anoplocephala perfoliata coproantigen detection: a preliminary study. Vet Parasitol 127 (2), 115-119 PubMed.
  • Williamson R M et al (1998) Coprological methods for the diagnosis of Anoplocephala perfoliata infection of the horse. Aust Vet J 76 (9), 618-621 PubMed.
  • Williamson R M et al (1997) The distribution of Anoplocephala perfoliata in the intestine of the horse and associated pathological changes. Vet Parasitol 73 (3-4), 225-241 PubMed.
  • Proudman C J & Trees A J (1996) Correlation of antigen specific IgG and IgG(T) responses with Anoplocephala perfoliata infection intensity in the horse. Parasite Immunol 18 (10), 499-506 PubMed.
  • Fogarty U et al (1994) Incidence of Anoplocephala perfoliata in horses examined at an Irish abattoir. Vet Rec 134 (20), 515-518 PubMed.

Other sources of information

  • Equisal Tapeworm by Austin Davis Biologics Ltd. Website: www.equisal.co.uk. Last accessed 11th November 2015.