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News Article

New disease control tool to help farmers deal with liver fluke threat to livestock

Model can assess impact of potential future climate conditions on infection levels, guide interventions to reduce disease risk

Fasciolosis, a parasitic disease of livestock and zoonosis occurring throughout the world, results in lower productivity and is estimated to cost the livestock industry $3 billion per year, globally.

To date, risk predictions have been based on rainfall estimates and temperature, without considering the life-cycle of the parasite and how it is controlled by levels of soil moisture. This, combined with shifts in disease timing and distribution attributed to climate change, has made liver fluke control increasingly challenging.

Writing in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, researchers at the University of Bristol describe a new tool to help farmers mitigate the risk to their livestock. The model, which works by explicitly linking liver fluke prevalence with key environmental drivers, especially soil moisture, will help farmers decide whether to avoid grazing livestock on certain pastures where liver fluke is more prevalent, or treat animals based on when risk of infection will be at its peak. Importantly, the model can be used to assess the impact of potential future climate conditions on infection levels and guide interventions to reduce future disease risk. The model is described in

Ludovica Beltrame, one of the study's researchers from Bristol's School of Civil, Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering, said: "In recent decades, the prevalence of liver fluke has increased from 48 to 72 per cent in UK dairy herds. This new tool will help farmers in managing the risk associated with liver fluke and offers a more robust approach to modelling future climate change impacts."

Professor Thorsten Wagener from Bristol's Cabot Institute for the Environment added: "Water-related diseases can be difficult to eradicate using medicine alone, as resistance to available drugs is increasing. We need predictive models of disease risk that quantify how strongly infection risk is controlled by our rapidly changing environment to develop alternative intervention strategies."

A mechanistic hydro-epidemiological model of liver fluke risk. Beltrame L, Dunne T, Vineer HR, Walker JG, Morgan ER, Vickerman P, McCann CM, Williams DJL, Wagener T. Journal of the Royal Society Interface, published online 29 August 2018m doi: 10:1098/rsif.2018.0072 (open access)

Article details

  • Date
  • 04 September 2018
  • Source
  • University of Bristol
  • Subject(s)
  • Food Animals