Liver Fluke Ecology

Our team plans to develop a liver fluke control system based on integrated parasite management (IPM) principles, rather than just relying on a chemical drench to treat animals.  The IPM approach will be built around epidemiological evidence gathered through the application of two new assays: the cyst PCR to detect the DNA of the infective fluke cyst in water and on pasture; and the new CoproELISA which detects fluke antigens in faeces and provides an estimate of the number of adult fluke carried by cattle. Using the coproantigen ELISA, the prevalence and intensity data obtained for fluke will be used to estimate the reduction in milk production and to estimate economic losses in the Macalister, Goulburn, Upper Murray and the Murray regions. This will help underpin subsequent extension messages on the cost/ benefits of liver fluke control. Once we establish such techniques to identify the parasite on farms, we plan to roll out an on-farm control program so dairy industry groups can start to implement it in 2018.

The main intermediate host for liver fluke in Australia is Austropeplea tomentosa. The snail at the bottom is A. tomentosa because the shell spirals clockwise, and the tentacles are flat and triangular in shape. Image courtesy of Mark Blacket.