The Pathophysiology, Ecology and Epidemiology of Haemonchus contortus Infection in Small Ruminants

R B Besier, L P Kahn, Neil Sargison, J A Van Wyk

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


The parasitic nematode Haemonchus contortus occurs commonly in small ruminants, and it is an especially significant threat to the health and production of sheep and goats in tropical and warm temperate zones. The main signs of disease (haemonchosis) relate to its blood-feeding activity, leading to anaemia, weakness and frequently to deaths, unless treatment is provided. Due to the high biotic potential, large burdens of H. contortus may develop rapidly when environmental conditions favour the free-living stages, and deaths may occur with little prior warning. More chronic forms of haemonchosis, resulting in reduced animal production and eventually deaths, occur with smaller persistent infections, especially in situations of prolonged, poor nutrition. The global distribution of the main haemonchosis-endemic zones is consistent with the critical requirements of the egg and larval stages of H. contortus for moisture and moderate to relatively warm temperatures, but the seasonal propensity for hypobiosis (inhibition of the fourth-stage larvae within the host) largely explains the common, though sporadic, outbreaks of haemonchosis in arid and colder environments. The wide climatic distribution may also reflect the adaptation of local isolates to less favourable ecological conditions, while an apparent increase in the prevalence of outbreaks in environments not previously considered endemic for haemonchosis – especially cold, temperate zones – may be attributable to climatic changes. Although the risk of haemonchosis varies considerably on a local level, even where H. contortus is endemic, the extensive range of ecological investigations provides a sound basis for predictions of the relative geographical and seasonal risk in relation to climatic conditions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHaemonchus contortus and Haemonchosis – Past, Present and Future Trends
EditorsRobin Gasser, Georg von Samson-Himmelstjerna
PublisherAcademic Press
ISBN (Print)978-0-12-810395-1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2016

Publication series

NameAdvances in Parsitology


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