Whipworm

(Trichuris species)

The main species present in Australia is Trichuris discolour with T. ovis and T. globulosa being uncommon.  Whipworms are white, 40–80 mm long and inhabit the blind gut (caecum) of cattle, sheep and goats. The adult body is whip-like with an anterior end that is fine and hair-like, and embedded in the wall of the large intestine while the posterior end is stout and free in the lumen of the gut. Whipworms occur occasionally in all cattle production areas of Australia.

Figure 2. A whipworm egg, Trichuris spp. Image courtesy of A.R. Walker Wikimedia Commons

Further ecological information on worms and their control:

  • Roundworm life cycle and life stages
  • Whipworms have a typical roundworm life cycle except that infection of cattle is by ingesting the egg containing the first stage larvae that can take 3-4 weeks to develop. Eggs in the environment are very resistant (for up to several years) to the effects of desiccation and freezing. Stock confined in contaminated environments tend to become re-infected after treatment. The pre-patent period in cattle is about 3 months.
  • Climate factors contributing to paddock contamination with worms
  • Pasture management to reduce exposure to worms
  • Cost of roundworms

Location in host

The blind gut (caecum).

Signs

Whipworm are considered harmless except in very heavy infections.

Signs of worms

Diagnosis

The characteristic eggs are found on a worm egg count (WEC) when analysing dung samples for other roundworm eggs.

Figure 1. Whipworm, Trichuris sp. Image courtesy of Mukund Madhav