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Cooperia spp.
Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Nematoda
Class Chromadorea
Order Rhabditida
Sub-order Strongylida
Super-family Trichostrongyloidea
Family Cooperiidae
Genus Cooperia
Species C. punctata, C. oncophora, C. pectinata
C. oncophora L3 stage larvae - RVC Guide to Vet Diagnostic Parisitology


Cooperia spp. are largely considered mild pathogens however there are a few species that are of greater veterinary importance, namely; C. punctata and C. pectinata. These species are parasites of cattle and small ruminants and most species of this genus prefer warmer climates.


Cooperia worms have a distinctive red colouration and a coiled appearance. The adults are between 5-8mm in length and males can be recognised by the presence of a disproportionately large bursa at the anterior end. The males also have paired spicules close to the bursa. The worms have 16 gut cells and a square ended anterior in the females, containing refractile bodies. The tail end of the Cooperia species has one of two forms dependent on the species, in those like C. oncophora the tail tapers to a point where as in those resembling C. curticei the sheath tip is finely pointed and contains refractile bodies. Eggs can usually be identified under microscopic examination due to the almost parallel walls of the egg.

Life Cycle

Cooperia spp. have a typical trichostrongylid life cycle with the exception that they do not feed on blood. Once ingested the larvae penetrate the mucosa of the proximal third of the small intestine where they will remain into adulthood. Hypobiosis plays a major role in the life cycle of these species as with other trichostrongylids, with the emergence of L4 larvae in the spring following infection the previous year. The prepatent period for infection without hypobiosis is 12 to 15 days but may be 3 - 5 months if larvae become arrested at the early L4 stage.


Most species of veterinary significant can be found worldwide though they are more prevalent in areas with warmer climates. Depending on the region in which the worm is present it will follow other worms, Ostertagia in the northern hemisphere and Haemonchus in the southern hemisphere.


Large parasite burdens of C. punctata and C. pectinata can cause severe diarrhoea, anorexia and emaciation without the presence of anaemia as they do not feed on the hosts' blood. Other species are considered mild pathogens but will also cause poor weight gain and productivity. These species are often present as secondary pathogens after infection with more pathogenic Ostertagia and Haemonchus species. The normal diagnostic techniques for identifying gastrointestinal nematodes may be used, mucosal scrapings of the proximal small intestine may be particularly useful. Scrapings may reveal fine lace like regions of necrosis and congestion of the mucosa.

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