Sheep gastrointestinal helminthiasis in the Sertão region of Paraíba State, Northeastern Brazil: prevalence and risk factors

In this study, we aimed to establish the prevalence and risk factors relating to gastrointestinal helminthiasis, and to characterize the sanitary management practiced among sheep herds in the Sertão region of the state of Paraíba, northeastern Brazil, based on factors that condition the ways of controlling these parasites in these herds. The research was carried out between April and July 2012. We visited 54 farms, where fecal and blood samples were individually collected from 465 animals. On each farm, a questionnaire was applied to gather information on variables relating to potential risk factors. The prevalence of sheep gastrointestinal helminthiasis in the region was 75.9%. At least one animal tested positive for this helminthiasis on 53 (98.1%) of the 54 farms evaluated. The eggs per gram of feces (EPG) analysis showed the following infection burdens: 51.8% with mild infection, 27.1% moderate infection, 9.9% heavy infection and 11.2% fatal infection. Among the sheep farms visited, anthelmintics were used on 81.5% (p <0.05). The most relevant risk factor in this study was the farm area, because it defines the area available for grazing animals. Properties with many animals and little pasture area, which are the most abundant type in the Sertão region of Paraíba, tend to have high prevalence of gastrointestinal helminthiasis, because the animals are more prone to reinfection. The Sertão region of Paraíba presents high prevalence of gastrointestinal helminthiasis among sheep, and the farm area is the most relevant risk factor for the development of these parasites.