• Liver fluke in Irish sheep: prevalence and associations with management practices and co-infection with rumen fluke.

      Munita, Maria Pia; Rea, Rosemary; Martinez-Ibeas, Ana Maria; Byrne, Noel; McGrath, Guy; Munita-Corbalan, Luis Enrique; Sekiya, Mary; Mulcahy, Grace; Sayers, Riona; Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Biomed Central, 2019-11-06)
      Background The present study aimed to identify the national prevalence of Fasciola hepatica in Irish sheep and to conduct a risk analysis assessment based on management and treatment practices in participating flocks. Also, co-infection with rumen fluke was quantified and its association with liver fluke and management practices was assessed. Methods A total of 305 sheep flocks were selected ensuring even national representation of the sheep population. Participating farms were asked to complete a survey questionnaire on farm management practices and submit faecal samples during the winter of 2014–2015. Pooled faecal samples were analysed for the presence of F. hepatica and co-infection with rumen fluke. Apparent and true prevalence were calculated, additionally, the rate of co-infection with rumen fluke was also obtained. Correlation and regression analyses were used for assessing associations between management practices, liver fluke infection and co-infection with rumen fluke. Results The national true prevalence of F. hepatica was 50.4% (n = 305). Regional prevalence varied from 41% in the east to 52% in the south. Co-infection with rumen fluke was observed in 40% of the studied population and correlated with increased F. hepatica egg counts (OR = 2.9; P ≤ 0.001). Predominant breeds were Suffolk, Texel and Horned Mountain breeds. Beef cattle were the most frequent type of other livestock present on farms and mixed species grazing was frequently reported (73%). More than half of the flocks reported a mid-to-late lambing period (March-April). Use of mountain land for grazing was of 32%. Flukicides were most commonly used twice over the autumn-winter period. Regression analyses highlighted significant association of F. hepatica status, with the presence of other livestock on farm, frequency of flukicides used during the winter and clinical presentation of liver fluke. A significant increase in eggs per gram of faeces was observed in Charollais sheep in comparison with all other breeds. Co-infection with F. hepatica and Calicophoron daubneyi was also significantly associated with the presence of other livestock on the farm, type of flukicide used and clinical fasciolosis. Conclusions The present study provides up-to-date information on the prevalence of F. hepatica in Irish sheep and adds insight to the epidemiology of the disease. These findings will be useful for designing new holistic control measures for F. hepatica infection.