Faecal pellets from a sheep that was artificially infected with a monoculture of Haemonchus contortus were collected over a 2-h period in the morning. In the laboratory the faeces were thoroughly mixed by hand and 48 by 1 g aliquots of the pellets were sealed in plastic bags, from which the air had gently been expressed. The faecal worm egg count of the sheep was about 14 000/g. Varying numbers of the bags were either processed for faecal worm egg counting (FEC) by the McMaster technique on day 0, or were stored at one of the following temperatures: about 4 degrees C, -10 degrees C or -170 degrees C before processing. The faecal aliquots that were frozen were thawed at room temperature after having been frozen for either 2h or 7 days, and processing of aliquots maintained at 4 degrees C proceeded shortly after the samples had been removed from the refrigerator. A dramatic reduction in egg numbers was found in all the aliquots that were frozen at -170 degrees C before faecal worm egg counts were done, as well as in those frozen for 7 days at about -10 degrees C. Numerous empty, or partially empty, egg shells were observed when performing the counts in faeces that had been frozen. In contrast, there was no significant reduction in the numbers of eggs in aliquots maintained for 7 days in a refrigerator at about 4 degrees C before examination, when compared with others examined shortly after collection of the faeces. Since H. contortus eggs in faeces are damaged by freezing, some methods that can be used for short term preservation are outlined. It is concluded that all nematode egg counts from cryopreserved faeces (whether in a freezer at -10 degrees C or in liquid nitrogen) should possibly be regarded as being inaccurate, unless the contrary can be demonstrated for different worm genera. However, exceptions are expected for the more rugged ova, such as those of the ascarids and Trichuris spp.
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