Evaluation of a commercially available enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay for detecting antibodies to Fasciola hepatica and Fasciola gigantica in cattle, sheep and buffaloes in Australia
A commercially available ELISA for detecting antibodies to liver fluke was evaluated for use in Australia. Milk and serum samples from cattle and sheep in which infection with Fasciola hepatica was confirmed by detection of eggs in faeces were used to estimate sensitivity. Similar samples collected from cattle and sheep outside the F. hepatica-endemic area were used to estimate specificity. The ELISA was also evaluated for detecting antibodies to F. hepatica in milk from sheep and antibodies to Fasciola gigantica in sera from cattle and buffaloes, but with small numbers of samples. In cattle, the sensitivity and specificity of the ELISA were 98.2% and 98.3% using serum and 97.7% and 99.3% using milk. In infected herds, 41.4% and 41.5% of animals were positive in the serum and milk ELISAs, respectively, whereas F. hepatica eggs were found in faecal samples from 26.5% of animals. In sheep, the sensitivity of the ELISA was 96.9% and the specificity was 99.4%. In infected flocks, 60.2% of animals were positive in the serum ELISA and F. hepatica eggs were found in faecal samples 52.2% of animals. There was perfect agreement in the ELISA between paired serum and milk samples collected from ewes. The assay detected antibodies in sera from cattle and buffaloes with natural and experimental F. gigantica infections. In the experimentally infected animals, antibodies were detected 2 weeks post-infection. We conclude that the ELISA will be a valuable tool for diagnosing F. hepatica infections in cattle and sheep. The assay may also be useful for diagnosing F. gigantica infections but further studies are required to establish sensitivity and specificity.