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Conventional and real time polymerase chain reaction-based tests have been developed for the diagnosis of anthelmintic resistance (AR) in populations of several small and large ruminant as well as horse gastro-intestinal nematode species. To date, molecular markers that correlate well with AR are available only for the detection of benzimidazole resistance. Recently, however, a single nucleotide polymorphism was found in vitro to be of functional relevance for reduced drug efficacy to macrocylic lactones. The focus of the present review, therefore, is the molecular mechanism of action of these two drug classes and potential applications of this knowledge to the diagnosis of AR. It is argued that a prerequisite for future molecular diagnosis will be tests providing reliable and exact quantification of resistance related alleles in DNA extracted from representative pools of parasites.