Quantifying the sources of variability in equine faecal egg counts: Implications for improving the utility of the method

Denwood, M.J., Love, S., Innocent, G.T., Matthews, L. , McKendrick, I.J., Hillary, N., Smith, A. and Reid, S.W.J. (2012) Quantifying the sources of variability in equine faecal egg counts: Implications for improving the utility of the method. Veterinary Parasitology, 188(1-2), pp. 120-126. (doi:10.1016/j.vetpar.2012.03.005) (PMID:22469484)

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Abstract

The faecal egg count (FEC) is the most widely used means of quantifying the nematode burden of horses, and is frequently used in clinical practice to inform treatment and prevention. The statistical process underlying the FEC is complex, comprising a Poisson counting error process for each sample, compounded with an underlying continuous distribution of means between samples. Being able to quantify the sources of variability contributing to this distribution of means is a necessary step towards providing estimates of statistical power for future FEC and FECRT studies, and may help to improve the usefulness of the FEC technique by identifying and minimising unwanted sources of variability. Obtaining such estimates require a hierarchical statistical model coupled with repeated FEC observations from a single animal over a short period of time. Here, we use this approach to provide the first comparative estimate of multiple sources of within-horse FEC variability. The results demonstrate that a substantial proportion of the observed variation in FEC between horses occurs as a result of variation in FEC within an animal, with the major sources being aggregation of eggs within faeces and variation in egg concentration between faecal piles. The McMaster procedure itself is associated with a comparatively small coefficient of variation, and is therefore highly repeatable when a sufficiently large number of eggs are observed to reduce the error associated with the counting process. We conclude that the variation between samples taken from the same animal is substantial, but can be reduced through the use of larger homogenised faecal samples. Estimates are provided for the coefficient of variation (cv) associated with each within animal source of variability in observed FEC, allowing the usefulness of individual FEC to be quantified, and providing a basis for future FEC and FECRT studies.

Item Type:Articles
Status:Published
Refereed:Yes
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Love, Professor Sandy and Denwood, Dr Matthew and Matthews, Professor Louise and Reid, Professor Stuart
Authors: Denwood, M.J., Love, S., Innocent, G.T., Matthews, L., McKendrick, I.J., Hillary, N., Smith, A., and Reid, S.W.J.
College/School:College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > Institute of Biodiversity Animal Health and Comparative Medicine
College of Medical Veterinary and Life Sciences > School of Veterinary Medicine
Journal Name:Veterinary Parasitology
Publisher:Elsevier
ISSN:0304-4017
ISSN (Online):1873-2550
Published Online:13 March 2012

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