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The CEO's Blog


Biological Worm Control: An Australian Innovation Now a Reality

Monday, May 14, 2018
BioWorma has been dubbed a game-changer in worm control.

It is a biological worm control product, which has the potential to save graziers and horse owners time and money - both through limiting stock losses and also reducing the need for chemical drenches for cattle, sheep, goats and horses.

After more than 20 years of research and development, Australian farmers and horse owners will be the first in the world to access this new product which has just been approved by the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

BioWorma uses a natural strain of fungus - Duddingtonia flagrans - which seeks out and 'traps' the larvae of many of the parasites that are common in horses, including strongyles (*see the complete list at the end of this article). It acts by substantially reducing the numbers of infective worm larvae, including multi-resistant larvae, emerging from manure onto pasture. It will be of most benefit to horse owners who manage their horses on pasture and works best with rotational grazing systems.

Duddingtonia flagrans is a nematophagous fungus. The term nematophagous is Greek, meaning "worm-eating". It is found on pasture (rarely soil) or in manure where it builds a microscopic net that traps, paralyses and consumes the juvenile stages (larvae) of parasitic worms and is highly host specific - only targeting parasitic nematodes.

When fed to animals, the thick-walled fungal spores remain inert (having no effect within the host animal) and resist digestion, passing through into the manure. There, they germinate and form trapping organs that capture, paralyse and consume emerging infective worm larvae, including multi-resistant larvae. The spores have been thoroughly tested and are considered safe, non-toxic and residue-free.

When fed to grazing animals, Duddingtonia flagrans spores pass through the digestive system and into the manure, where they are activated when parasitic worm larvae become active. These parasitic worms include roundworms (also called nematodes), which are commercially the most important, causing massive productivity losses in livestock, including domesticated animals like sheep, cattle, goats and horses, and exotic species, like deer, alpacas, zoo animals, etc. Since they are active in the digestive system of the host animals, they are referred to as gastrointestinal nematodes (GIN).

Animals become infected when they eat pasture which has been contaminated with the larvae of the GIN. For this reason, these larvae are known as the infective stage. The worms mature inside the animal and they reproduce by producing eggs, which are shed into the manure of the infected animals.

Inside the manure pats or piles on the pasture, the eggs hatch and the larvae develop through several stages into the infective larvae, which migrate out onto the nearby pasture. When this pasture is grazed by an animal, the infection is spread. In this way, the population of worms in the animal is maintained.

It has been estimated, at any one time, about 90% of the worms on a farm are present as larvae on the pasture and only 10% are living inside the animals.

“It is using nature to fight nature, rather than chemicals to fight nature,” says Chris Lawlor, head of International Animal Health Products.

"The commercial BioWorma is the result of over 20 years of painstaking scientific study and innovation, creating a product that is the first of its kind, anywhere in the world. Drenches currently used to fight intestinal parasites will be supported by BioWorma in reducing re-infestation onto pasture. It does more than just Barber’s Pole, and it does more than just sheep… It’s in a new class.”

Breaking the parasitic worms' lifecycle will also reduce the need for chemical anthelmitic treatments which, in turn, will help slow down the spread of resistance to the available drugs. A worm is said to be resistant if it survives exposure to the standard recommended dose of the anthelmintic and can then pass this ability on to its offspring.

Although an Australian study did not identify resistance among small strongyles in horse properties, it did show a shortening of the 'Egg Reappearance Period' (ERP) after worming - an early sign of resistance, and it identified resistance among ascarids.

Mr Lawlor was first contacted about developing a fungal product to combat worms all the way back in 1997 by the CSIRO. The idea immediately appealed to him as an opportunity for Australian agriculture to be ahead of the curve.

“Globally, the losses from parasites would be a billion dollars or more…so, I didn’t want to see this get developed overseas and then see Australian farmers having to buy it back. It was something that had never been done before, so there was no rule book.”

The next two decades involved 19 trials and three different safety studies - testing for everything from environmental effects, toxicology and residues, through to the simple questions of how to harvest thousands of tonnes of Duddingtonia flagrans spores and how to feed it to the livestock in a known dosage to then test the manure for the number of larvae remaining.

Mr Lawlor says there was rigorous testing to make sure the product was safe for farmers to handle, as well as safe for the livestock, the environment, and even for earthworms and dung beetles in the soil.

Given that BioWorma works through interrupting the crucial re-infestation stage of the parasites’ lifecycle and reducing the amount of re-infection from contaminated pasture, Mr Lawlor says it works best when the livestock are moved onto fresh pasture.

“The product works particularly well within a rotational grazing system.”

The palatable horse supplement is not on the shelves yet, but will be marketed by International Animal Health and sold as BioWorma® and Livamol with BioWorma® in Australia and New Zealand. Mr Lawlor says it will be available in the United States shortly and Europe within the next year or two.

For more information, visit www.duddingtonia.com.

To review the APVMA registration documents click here.

*Types of roundworms … trapped by Duddingtonia flagrans in horses:
  • Large strongyles (large red worms), including Strongylus spp., Triodontophorus spp. and Oesophagodontus spp
  • Small strongyles (small red worms or cyathostomes), including Cyathostomum spp., Cylicocyclus spp. and Cylicostephanus spp
  • Stomach Hair Worm (Trichostrongylus axei)
  • Ascarids (Parascaris equorum)
  • Threadworms (Strongyloides westeri)
  • Pinworms (Oxyuris equi)
Kind regards,
Chris Lawlor.

View article HERE

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