Project code: DB-61-12


Fasciola hepatica, the liver fluke, is a common and ubiquitous parasite affecting the health and welfare of cattle worldwide.  Fluke infection costs the UK agriculture industry somewhere in the region of £300 million per year due to production losses with liver condemnations alone costing £3.2 million in 2010. Evidence from various sources suggests that the prevalence of infection has increased considerably in recent years for a variety of reasons – changing climate, changing farming practices and increased animal movements. There are growing concerns about drug resistance and withdrawal of drugs used to treat milking cattle and we know that a fluke modulates its host’s immune system and affects diagnosis and susceptibility to other pathogens including bovine tuberculosis. The farming industry is in urgent need of improved means to control the disease reducing reliance on drugs.

This project will lead to better control of fasciolosis.  Requested by the farming industry, the purpose of this project is to produce new, sustainable, bespoke control programmes for beef and dairy farms, to reduce losses associated with F. hepatica.

Research Provider: Liverpool University (lead), Moredun Research Institute, Scotland's Rural College (SRUC), Centre for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH)

Lead Scientist: Prof Diana Williams

Start Date: October 2013

End Date: April 2019

Aims & Objectives

The aim is to improve control of F. hepatica infection in cattle by developing new management tools. This is a focused, integrated project combining cutting-edge mathematical and economic models, informed by data collected from the field culminating in farm level intervention programmes to fully evaluate the theoretical outputs from the models.

The project is divided into five inter-linked work packages:

  1. Development and validation of herd level diagnostic tests to identify farms with fluke infection and to discriminate between fasciola and paramphistome infection.
  2. Field level classification of snail habitats, and identification of factors that influence contacts between cows, snails and the parasites.
  3. Identification of farm risk factors for F. hepatica infection in dairy and beef enterprises and development of statistical and mathematical models to predict the likely benefits of implementing changes to farm practice of fluke prevalence.
  4. An economic analysis to define costs of fluke infection at herd and national level
  5. An evaluation of an on-farm intervention programme aimed at reducing prevalence of fluke infection on dairy and beef farms