- Roundworm infections in poultry have been traditionally diagnosed through worm counts and EPG (eggs per gram of feces) counts.
- Recently, a serologic test called HuveCheck Hetasca was developed for the detection of roundworm infections in poultry (in cooperation with Poulpharm and Ghent University, Belgium).
- HuveCheck Hetasca outperformed traditional methods when comparison tests in terms of sensitivity and specificity were carried out.
Roundworm infections are an increasing concern for poultry producers, especially in cage-free housing systems. Next to losses in production, worms can act as a vector for other diseases such as Salmonella spp. and Histomonas meleagridis, the latter being the causative agent of blackhead disease.
Histomonas meleagridis is a protozoal pathogen mainly known to cause high mortality in turkeys, but in recent years more and more diagnosed in chickens (layers and breeders) causing the typical caecal and liver lesions, or as an underlying cause of chronic E. coli mortality.
Prevention of this disease is key to avoid outbreaks for which limited treatment options exist. One aspect of prevention is completely stopping the replication and infection with Heterakis gallinarum in an early phase, even before it is or can be detected by EPC or necropsy.
Serology with HuveCheck Hetasca can detect worm infections early in the rearing phase of layers and broiler breeders. Deworming at the end of the rearing period will allow the worm eggs to spread and hatch undetected in such a way to spread Histomonas meleagridis in the flock without any clinical symptoms. Later on, when the birds go into production, outbreaks can occur. This was demonstrated using HuveCheck Hetasca where a correlation was found between positive serologic flocks during rearing and blackhead disease outbreaks during the production phase.
To prevent Histomonas meleagridis outbreaks during production, it is critical to implement a monitored deworming program during rearing with HuveCheck Hetasca instead of, as is commonly practiced today, deworming at the end of the rearing period.