14th June 2013

Rumen Fluke Poses New Challenge to Scottish Producers

A warning that rumen fluke could become as widespread as liver fluke in Scotland was issued today (June 14th) during the launch of Quality Meat Scotland’s Research & Development report.

Dr Philip Skuce, Senior Research Scientist, Moredun Research Institute said that, while this revelation would not be welcomed by Scottish producers already faced with a major liver fluke challenge, the good news is that rumen fluke rarely causes disease in livestock.

Dr Skuce said that 2012 had seen as many cases of rumen fluke diagnosed as had been in the previous five years combined. However, while the rumen fluke parasite may be becoming more common, actual disease caused by rumen fluke is still very rare. He cautioned that the presence of rumen fluke alone, in the absence of clinical signs, was not to be taken as an indication to blanket treat animals, because at present, we rely on a single flukicide (oxyclozanide) to treat rumen fluke.

“The summer of 2012 was one of the wettest on record and liver fluke has become a major problem for livestock farmers. The last quarter of 2012 saw a 10-fold increase in diagnosis of acute liver fluke disease compared with the previous year,” observed Dr Skuce.

One unexpected result of recent work has, however, been the identification of the particular species of rumen fluke which is now established in Scotland.

“For decades it was assumed the main rumen fluke in the British Isles was Paramphistomum cervi, a parasite which is associated with deer and with aquatic intermediate snail hosts.

“However, very surprisingly, all the samples which have been analysed to date have been shown to be Calicophoron daubneyi, the major rumen fluke species of livestock in mainland Europe.

“It was thought this species might occasionally occur in imported livestock, but our results clearly demonstrated its presence in homebred Scottish cattle and sheep.”

This species favours the same intermediate host mud snail as the liver fluke which means that rumen fluke may become as widespread as liver fluke, he warned, particularly if prevailing weather patterns continue.

While disease due to rumen fluke is rare, Dr Skuce emphasised its importance in the context of liver fluke diagnostics.

“Rumen fluke eggs look similar to liver fluke eggs and their presence may lead to incorrect diagnosis of liver fluke infection or apparent liver fluke treatment failure which emphasises the importance of new diagnostics for both types of  fluke,” he said.

The effectiveness of treatment was evaluated on a cattle farm where rumen fluke was present and considered to cause disease. Using a faecal egg count reduction test for rumen fluke eggs, oxyclozanide treatment was shown to eliminate rumen fluke infection followed by improvement in the condition of treated animals.

“Clearly this is good news for farmers who have animals affected by rumen fluke,” Dr Skuce added.

Sign up for the latest news and views