Effect of vitamin E supplementation on naturally acquired parasitic infection in lambs

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Gastrointestinal nematode infections cause substantial economic losses in pasture-based sheep farming worldwide. Host nutritional status has been identified as a key component of immune function. While vitamin E supplementation is known to have broad-spectrum effects on immune function in livestock, to our knowledge, there are no reports on the effect of vitamin E supplementation on trichostrongylid parasite infections in lambs. This study evaluated the effect of parenteral vitamin E supplementation on naturally acquired parasite infection in lambs. Twenty-seven spring lambs were sequentially assigned to receive injections of vitamin E (15 or 30 IU d-α-tocopherol/kg body weight (BW) or placebo, every two weeks, from birth to 28 weeks of age. Blood was collected at weeks 0, 2, 4, 8, 12, 16, 20, 24, and 28 to determine serum α-tocopherol concentration. Once the youngest animal reached 15 weeks of age all lambs were dewormed and grazed together on a pasture known to be contaminated with trichostrongylid larvae. Fecal egg count and blood packed cell volume (%) were determined on each lamb immediately prior to deworming and for the first seven weeks of pasture infection. Lambs were euthanized when they reached 28 weeks of age for determination of parasite worm burdens. Vitamin E supplementation at 30. IU/kg BW increased serum α-tocopherol over that of placebo (P< 0.001) however, there was no effect of vitamin E supplementation on liver (P = 0.804) or muscle (P = 0.16) α-tocopherol content. There was no effect of vitamin E supplementation on fecal egg counts, packed cell volume, worm burden or nematode species distribution. Nematode genera identified were Haemonchus (30%), Trichostrongylus (42%), Nematodirus (27%), Strongyloides sp. (<1%), and Aonchotheca sp. (<1%). These results indicate that biweekly injections of vitamin E at 15 and 30 IU d-α-tocopherol/kg BW, had no effect on parasitological parameters used in the study to assess gastrointestinal nematode infection. © 2010 Elsevier B.V.

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Veterinary Parasitology