New diagnostic test for liver fluke

THE two main practical challenges for farmers wishing to ensure their livestock are free of liver fluke are the diagnosis of active fluke infection in a live animal, and then establishing the effectiveness of flukicide treatment.

The incidence of fluke is increasing and this parasitic flatworm is also spreading geographically from west to east.

Of additional concern is the increasing number of reports of lack of efficacy of Triclabendazole (TCBZ), the active ingredient in a number of leading flukicides.

Dr Philip Skuce, a senior research scientist at Moredun, outlined his team’s work in the evaluation of a new Belgian liver fluke diagnostic test - the copro-antigen ELISA test.

Current tests rely either on invasive and difficult to interpret blood tests, or more commonly - on identifying fluke eggs in faecal samples, but this can give misleading information as to the efficacy of flukicide treatment.

The Belgian test detects tiny amounts of fluke antigens in faeces, theoretically identifying fluke infection before the adult fluke produce eggs.

Evaluation

The Moredun evaluation of this test demands determining pre- and post-fluke treatment parasite levels, by both egg count and the Belgian test.

Participating farmers submitted faecal samples from sheep scheduled for liver fluke treatment and a second set of faecal samples, from the same animals, were sent to Moredun 21 days after treatment.

“Preliminary results indicate the new test is considerably faster and easier to use than the standard egg count. It also gave a more rapid indication as to whether or not flukicide treatment was successful,” said Dr Skuce.

The new test is not yet available to vets or farmers. Further work is currently being undertaken by Moredun to enable group or composite sampling, plus evaluation of the new test in cattle.

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