DIY Worm Egg Counting; new lice test; SCAHLS – Dx Tests (Worms)

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Gear for DIY Worm Egg Counting

I get a number of inquiries from people who have already learnt how to do their own worm egg counts, but need to source equipment.

Below is information prepared (Feb. ’08) by Anne Oakenful (QA Manager, Elizabeth Macarthur Institute) as part of the manual NSW DPI’s ‘Faecal Egg Counting Course’

I have also added information from J Sewell who supplies microscopes and other equipment, and who kindly provided demonstration models at the FEC Courses I co-presented with Vicki Bordin in March and May.

One course participant said ‘Microscopes Australia’ is also worth checking.

Listing a supplier does not imply endorsement by DPI: we are merely providing some possibilities for you to check.

By the way, plans are afoot to run more of these courses in various parts of the state. I will endeavour to let you know when they are coming up.

Microscope slides
The Whitlock universal slide is specifically designed for parasite detection in large and small animals. They usually start at around $120.00 a slide but they are glass sides and do last a long time if looked after.

Whitlock Universal slides are available from:
JA Whitlock & Co
PO Box 51
Eastwood NSW 2122
Ph 02 96381142
Web site:

There are a number of different sources of microscopes. Prices range depending on the quality.

The basic requirements for faecal egg counts are:
Compound Microscope with 40x – 100x magnification (10x eyepiece with 4x and 10x objectives)
Binocular eye pieces (monocular can be used however it can cause eye strain if doing multiple samples)
Mechanical stage
Power supply for lighting

The web is a good source of information on microscope products, prices and suppliers.
Most laboratory suppliers have a microscope range that covers the basic needs required for egg counts. eg

Science Education Online
email: fax: 02 6946 4412 postal: PO Box 28, Adelong NSW 2729

Microscopes Australia

There are a number of overseas company’s that do freight to Australia. Some of their microscopes are cheaper and they do offer warranty. eg

EBAY occasionally have microscopes on sale and can be worth looking at from time to time to see what’s available.

Battery hydrometers for checking specific gravity of salt solutions are readily available at most hardware stores, car spare parts stores etc. They are relatively cheap at around $10 and are a good investment to ensure that all salt solutions are at the required specific gravity to float parasite eggs for detection.


SCAHLS – Standard Diagnostic Procedures – another good resource

The SCAHLS site is another good resource.

Of relevance to this newsletter is the current ‘ASDT’ for Anthelmintic resistance, written by Maxine Lyndal-Murphy (1993) of the Qld DPI. This contains good information.

This ‘ASDT’ will be updated/replaced soon by an ‘ANZDSP’ (have you got all the acronyms worked out) written by Gareth Hutchinson, formerly of NSW DPI, and James Cook University.

The title: Nematode Parasites of Small Ruminants, Camelids and Cattle – Diagnosis with Emphasis on Anthelmintic Efficacy and Resistance Testing’

I have seen a final draft of this document and I think it will be a valuable resource, even for those not doing any lab testing.

Hopefully this will be published on the SCAHLS website within the next few months. (It’s a bit sad when you get excited by the prospect of new publication on worms).


New lice test

OK, this is ‘ecto’ rather than ‘endo’, but it is great to see this test now seeing the light of day. (Ectos are the province of Gemma Junk, the NSW DPI Ectoparasite Coordinator, but I am sure she will let this one pass).

Here is the NSW DPI news release :

Lousy sheep no more – clean combs and cutters key to new lice test – 28 May 2009

A sensitive new test that can diagnose lice infestations at shearing will be available for wool producers from July, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said today.

NSW DPI researchers who developed the laboratory test believe it will be highly economical and give producers confidence not to dip or backline as a precaution.

“The test could be used as part of management strategy to eradicate lice from properties and/or reduce chemical usage and hence residues in wool,” NSW DPI’s Paul Young said.

“The test uses washings from the cleaning of shearers’ combs and cutters.

“The washings detect protein from chopped up lice, trapped in grease accumulated on the combs and cutters as lousy sheep are shorn.”

The laboratory test is the culmination of many years’ financial investment and co-operative research between NSW DPI, Australian Wool Innovation and CSIRO Livestock Industries.

To be run at NSW DPI’s Elizabeth Macarthur Agricultural Institute (EMAI), Camden, the test is based on ELISA technology.

The EMAI team says the test can pay for itself many times over if producers choose not to dip, or back-line sheep that previously would have been treated “just in case they had lice”.

The test uses samples submitted by or on behalf of producers.

“Proper sample collection is absolutely essential and unless done correctly will invalidate the test results,” Mr Young, said.

“The kit’s information sheet provides detailed instructions for correct sample collection.

“Because of the sensitivity of the test it stipulates all the combs and cutters must be scrupulously clean before use.

“A ‘one sample’ kit may be used to collect a single sample from the shearing of a mob of up to 250 sheep.

“If a mob contains more than 250 sheep, more than one sample should be collected.

Any number of sample bottles can be provided on request.

“To ensure detection of low-level infestations of lice, all combs and cutters used to shear the mob of interest must be washed using the materials provided.”

The EMAI team advises producers not to be tempted to sample only some of the mob.

“Sometimes only a few sheep in a mob may be infested,” NSW DPI technical officer, Narelle Sales, said.

“Unless all the comb and cutter washings from the shearing of all of the sheep are included, the samples submitted to the laboratory may not contain any lice protein and the test result would be incorrectly interpreted.”

Further reading

From the June 2009 edition of Agriculture Today: Skip the dip

new lice test

Lousy sheep no more – clean combs and cutters key to new lice test

28 May 2009

A sensitive new test that can diagnose lice infestations at shearing will be available for wool producers from July, the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) said today.

More information