The liver fluke, Fasciola hepatica, is a highly pathogenic flatworm parasite of ruminants, mainly sheep and cattle. It causes severe liver damage, especially in sheep and can result in the sudden death of previously healthy animals. The disease is also responsible for considerable economic losses, estimated at ~£50m in Scotland alone, due to direct production losses, poor reproductive performance and livers condemned at slaughter. The disease appears to be on the increase in the UK and spreading into previously fluke-free areas, possibly as a result of recent climate change (milder winters and wetter summers) favouring the parasite and its mud snail intermediate host.
Control of fluke has historically involved the strategic application of flukicidal drugs, however, this approach is not thought to be sustainable in the face of increasing reports of flukicide resistance. Diagnosis of fluke is also not straightforward. Faecal egg counting is not a reliable indicator of infection and immunological tests do not discriminate between current and previous infections. Also, there is no vaccine available against fluke.
NADIS publishes a monthly Parasite Forecast for farmers and livestock keepers, based on detailed Met Office data. The Parasite Forecast outlines the parasitic challenge facing cattle and sheep in the different UK regions.
Here at Moredun, we have recently initiated research aimed at:
This short animation, made especially for Moredun by Blobina Animations, introduces you to liver fluke and how to prevent it from spreading.
Join AHDB Beef and Lamb, Lesley Stubbings (Independent sheep consultant) and Philip Skuce (Principal Scientist at Moredun) for a webinar on liver fluke surveillance and control. On-farm costs of liver fluke are estimated to be £87 for each case in cattle and £5.56 for each case in sheep. Milder winters and wet summers have created an ideal environment for fluke to thrive and this is now a nationwide issue, with more farms reporting their first cases.
The webinar covers: