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Scottish Scientists Working to Reduce the Incidence of Liver Fluke

Published Wednesday, 5th March 2014 in Research news

Liver fluke cycle

Researchers from Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) are working on a new a new campaign to tackle a disease in cattle that costs the UK economy £300m each year.

The £1 million project is led by the University of Liverpool, who will work with SRUC and another Scottish partner; the Moredun Institute, as well as researchers from the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. The team will look at how to improve the detection and control of liver fluke, a disease that is transmitted by the dwarf pond snail and is found on over 75% of UK dairy farms.

The disease causes cattle to lose weight, become anaemic and lethargic and reduces productivity in dairy and beef herds.

Veterinary parasitologist, Professor Diana Williams, from Liverpool University’s Institute of Infection and Global Health, said: “This disease is on the increase, partly due to climate change and changes in farming practices and it is fast becoming difficult to treat because of growing resistance to medication.”

To combat this problem, scientists are collaborating with the farming industry, to undertake a four year research programme that will improve management of the disease; use drug treatment sustainably; create practical differences in farming techniques; and develop detection processes to mitigate the impact of the disease on the UK farming industry.

As well as improving the use of treatments at specific times of year to slow the development of drug resistance, the team will create a system to categorise snail habitats that can be used alongside satellite imagery for individual farms.

Professor Williams added: “We will also look at husbandry practices and physical and environmental factors from a study of 250 farms to feed into statistical and mathematical models that will help us determine more effectively why some farms have fluke whilst others in close proximity do not.”

The initiative is co-funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), and the five UK meat and milk levy boards, EBLEX (English Beef and Lamb Executive), HCC (Meat Promotion Wales), Quality Meat Scotland, AgriSearch (Northern Ireland), and DairyCo. 

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