No ‘Fluke’ as Tyndall nukes parasites with innovative toolkit

Tyndall National Institute has today announced the development of a new diagnostic toolkit – Flukeless – to help in the fight against liver fluke in cattle and sheep.

The new toolkit aims to combine state-of-the-art diagnostic devices, tracking systems and immunity and DNA testing to tackle the common liver fluke parasite – a scourge that costs Irish farmers €25m annually and represents a €90m annual cost to the Irish food industry.

Developed for use by farmers, vets and policy analysts, Flukeless aims to provide a blueprint for new, on-farm parasite control, allowing farmers to rapidly intervene and correct parasite-related animal health issues such as reduced live-weight gain, calving rates and milk yield.

Led by Dr Alan O’Riordan, principal investigator at the Tyndall National Institute, Flukeless will be developed in collaboration with Teagasc, University College Dublin, Zoetis, the Enfer Group and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation.

The project recently received a research grant of €878,883 under the Government’s Research Stimulus Fund, which aims to support sustainable and competitive agricultural production practices and policies, and contributes to building and maintaining a knowledge economy and research capability in the agriculture sector.

Speaking about Flukeless this afternoon, Dr O’Riordan said “The World Organisation for Animal Health estimates that approximately 20 per cent of animal production is lost due to unhealthy animals. At a time when farmers are increasing numbers of livestock in line with Food Harvest 2020 goals, it is crucial to maintain animal health and welfare to achieve maximum farm profitability.

“With Flukeless, we believe that we have a pioneering, multidimensional package including on-farm fluke diagnostics, the results of which will be uploaded to geographical information system for disease mapping and also feed into breeding programmes. This approach has broad application and will save significant time, energy and money.”

The project is expected to last for four years with the full system available to farmers within the next five years.

Liver fluke disease causes annual losses estimated to be around €2.5bn to livestock and food industries worldwide and is estimated to cost at least €90m to the Irish industry.

Economic losses caused by liver fluke are mainly associated with a decrease in meat and milk production. According to the institute, depending on the degree of infection, liver fluke may cause a reduced meat production of up to 20 per cent in cattle and up to 30 per cent in sheep, and a reduction in milk production of up to eight per cent in cows.

“Fertility can suffer and beef cattle affected by fluke may take an extra 80 days to reach market weights. Losses also occur due to the number of livers condemned in meat plants as up to 50 per cent of livers may be condemned,” it added.

Dr Alan O’Riordan, principal investigator at the Tyndall National Institute, with Minister for Agriculture Simon Coveney