​Project Manager​: Dr Kerstin Junker

The project focuses on two main activities:

  1. Within the National Collection of Animal Helminths we conduct Research on Helminth Taxonomy and Biodiversity to (i) enhance our understanding of host-parasite systems and (ii) increase our ability to diagnose and predict the spread of parasitic animal diseases in order to develop disease management strategies that will enhance the performance of both the livestock and wildlife industry.

  2. We also render Diagnostic Services to support rural livelihoods and integrated anthelmintic control strategies.

National Collection of Animal Helminths: Helminth Taxonomy and Biodiversity

Dr Kerstin Junker (Curator); Dr Andrea Spickett

The National Collection of Animal Helminths (NCAH) is an extensive reference collection of parasitic helminths of veterinary and zoological importance, providing a wide basis for taxonomic comparisons and large-scale systematic studies, with an emphasis on parasites of livestock and wildlife in southern Africa. Amongst numerous others, the NCAH contains type specimens of more than 200 species of nematodes, cestodes and trematodes.

Nile crocodile
CongylonemaM.pngGongylonema congolense.
Tail of male.
tarentaal.jpgHelmeted guineafowl
Gongylonema congolense.
Anterior extremity of female.

Our research focuses mainly on morphological, taxonomic and systematic studies of zooparasitic nematodes and the study of helminth community ecology, to contribute, ultimately, to disease management and control in livestock and wildlife. All free-living animals have their own unique parasite assemblages. These parasites can have a significant impact on host ecology and play an important role in the regulation of host populations. Helminths of wildlife might not only affect their natural hosts but can have zoonotic potential as well. Studying the helminth communities of wildlife, their composition and processes that govern their specific patterns will allow us to assess the possible impact of helminth infections on their hosts and will provide the baseline data needed to protect and sustainably manage South Africa's amazing biodiversity. Creation of extensive data sets will eventually enable us to judge if helminths of wildlife are reservoir hosts for helminths of livestock and vice versa. This is especially critical as human expansion and resulting habitat loss lead to an ever-greater livestock-wildlife interphase.

Recent and current projects are:

  • Comparative analysis of the gastrointestinal helminth communities of selected taxa of southern African gamebirds

  • Helminth assemblages of small and large mammals in southern Africa

  • Gastrointestinal helminths of Crocodylus niloticus

  • Pentastomid parasites in South African wildlife

Tetrameres.pngTetrameres numida. Anterior extremity of female.
Sicarius caudatus.
Tail of male.
Penta-SEM.pngSebekia okavangoensis. Anterior extremity of nymph, showing double hooks and oral cadre.
Octopetalum numida. Scolex with suckers.
Mediorhynchus africanus.
Eggs in uterus of female.
Acantho.pngMediorhynchus africanus. Proboscis of female with hooks and spines.

Selected publications (pdf)

Diagnostic services to support rural livelihoods and anthelmintic control strategies

Ms Ellen F van Wijk; Mr M Daniel Chipana; Mr R Frans Masubelle; Dr Kerstin Junker; Dr Andrea Spickett

Gastrointestinal helminths are a number one disease affecting farming systems worldwide. They are a major cause of ill thrift and production loss in both the commercial and the smallholder farming sector and affect the entire spectre of livestock species. Yet, rural development in terms of agricultural development involves increasing the overall productivity and sustainability of farming systems. Helminth control programmes based solely on the use of anthelmintic drugs are no longer sustainable, because of an increased prevalence of nematode resistance, high costs and concerns regarding residues in the food and environment.

To assist in target-specific, integrated helminth management and control strategies, we offer the following identification services as well as diagnostic services to establish worm burdens in live animals as a decision tool whether the use of anthelmintics is indicated or not.                                                                                                            

FaecalSampleBags.jfifFaecal samples individually bagged for diagnostic purposes.

Gongylonema congolense.
Egg with developing larva.

    • McMaster Nematode Egg Count
      • Quantitative determination of nematode eggs present in faecal samples, using flotation media.

    • Direct Faecal Flotation (Faecalyser)
      • Determination of presence or absence of nematode eggs in faecal samples.

    • Pitchford/Visser Trematode Egg Count
      • Quantitative determination of trematode eggs present in faecal samples.

    • Larval Culture and Identification of Infective Larvae of Ruminants
      • Nematode eggs are cultivated to the infective larval stage. This enables us to identify these larvae to genus level, providing a more detailed diagnosis than a nematode egg count.

    • Helminth Identification
      • Identification of nematodes, cestodes and trematodes, as well as of pentastomid parasites.     

In addition to our diagnostic services, the Goatkeeper's Animal Health Care Manual, aims to assist smallholders in endoparasite control, basic hygiene as well as basic animal husbandry practices and the use of FAMACHA©.

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