Shaping the future of animal health
South Africa

LIVER FLUKE IN CATTLE - THE PARASITE

Corné Mostert

Fasciolosis (Liver fluke) is one of the most important parasitic diseases throughout the world including, South Africa.
Liver fluke infections in cattle are responsible for economic losses such as:

  • Liver condemnation
  • Mortality
  • Reduction in milk and meat production
  • Secondary bacterial infections

 

OVERVIEW OF THE PARASITE
Two types of liver fluke are found in South Africa.

  • Common liver fluke (Fasciola hepatica)
  1. Average 2.5cm long and 1.5cm wide
  2. Commonly found all over South Africa where conditions are suitable
  • Giant liver fluke (Fasciola gigantica)
  1. Average 5.5cm long and 1.5cm wide
  2. Are more found in the northern regions of South Africa
Fasciola.jpg

The life cycle is complex with several stages of growth both on pastures and inside cattle.

Liverfluke_cycle.jpg

Liver fluke infections in cattle depend on a number of factors:

  • The presence of Freshwater snails (intermediate host) on the farm.
  • The presence of suitable wet, marshy areas or ponds. The water must be slow moving or still.
  • Rainfall, it helps to wash the eggs out of faeces. Rainfall also maintains the water bodies where snails can survive.
  • Temperature also plays a big role in influencing liver fluke infestations:
  1. Both fluke and snails thrive over the warmer months of the year. When the average daily temperature dropsbelow 10 ̊C, fluke eggs stop hatching and development of larval flukes in the snails slows down and the snails become inactive.

In the colder areas the liver fluke life cycle comes to a halt over the winter periods. In the warmer areas where the temperatures are mild, the fluke life cycle can continue throughout the year and fluke infection will continue and numbers will build up.

River.jpg

Successful liver fluke control can be challenging because the number of parasites in the host must be reduced and the fluke population present in the environment.