Researchers are hoping to finish development of a blood test to detect cyathostomins (small redworms) in horses.
The Moredun Research Institute in Scotland has obtained fresh research funding from The Horse Trust to complete its development of the test.
The money will also be used to investigate a saliva-based adaptation of the test, in development at Austin Davis Biologics Ltd.
Small redworm infections are common and are one of the most harmful parasites to affect horses.
Horses with many immature worms (larvae) in their guts can develop severe colitis, which can be fatal.
The small redworm has an encysted stage, in which they hibernate in the lining of the gut. They tend to emerge in spring, and a mass release can cause serious gut problems and potentially death.
Standard faecal worm egg counts cannot identify the larvae during the encysted stage, which means the development of a blood or saliva test would be of great value.
Moxidectin is the only dewormer that has high anti-larval effectiveness and for which resistance is not yet widespread.
To protect the effectiveness of this dewormer, targeted treatment programmes are required.
The availability of a diagnostic test to detect the intra-host stages of small redworms will help equine veterinarians make treatment decisions.
In this collaborative project, Professor Jacqui Matthews from Moredun will work with Austin Davis Biologics and Professor Martin Nielsen at the Gluck Equine Research Center at the University of Kentucky.
Austin Davis Biologics has considerable experience in the development of diagnostic tests for the equine market.
Matthews said the future availability of these tests will revolutionise the way in which veterinarians approach small redworm control in horses.
Dr Corrine Austin, of Austin Davis Biologics, said the new tests would enable horse owners to work with their veterinarians in targeting treatments against encysted cyathostomin infections.
The Horse Trust’s chief executive, Jeanette Allen, described the project as important, saying she hoped it would move forward the availability of diagnostic tests to detect larval cyathostomins.
It would, she said, be a significant advance to guide treatment decisions.