Determination of the prevalence and intensity of Fasciola hepatica infection in dairy cattle from six irrigation regions of Victoria, South-eastern Australia, further identifying significant triclabendazole resistance on three properties
Fasciola hepatica (liver fluke) is a widespread parasite infection of livestock in Victoria, South-eastern Australia, where high rainfall and a mild climate is suitable for the main intermediate host Austropeplea tomentosa. The aims of this study were to quantify the prevalence and intensity of F. hepatica in dairy cattle in the irrigated dairy regions of Victoria and determine if triclabendazole resistance was present in infected herds. Cattle in 83 herds from the following six irrigation regions were tested for F. hepatica: Macalister Irrigation District (MID), Upper Murray (UM), Murray Valley (MV), Central Goulburn (CG), Torrumbarry (TIA) and Loddon Valley (LV). Twenty cattle from each herd were tested using the F. hepatica faecal egg count (FEC) as well as the coproantigen ELISA (cELISA). The mean individual animal true prevalence of F. hepatica across all regions was 39 % (95 % credible interval [CrI] 27%-51%) by FEC and 39 % (95 % CrI 27%-50%) by cELISA with the highest true prevalence (75-80 %) found in the MID. Our results show that 46 % of the herds that took part in this study were likely to experience fluke-associated production losses, based on observations that herd productivity is impaired when the true within-herd prevalence is > 25 %. Using the FEC and cELISA reduction tests, triclabendazole resistance was assessed on 3 herds in total (2 from the 83 in the study; and 1 separate herd that did not take part in the prevalence study) and resistance was confirmed in all 3 herds. This study has confirmed that F. hepatica is endemic in several dairy regions in Victoria: triclabendazole resistance may be contributing to the high prevalence in some herds. From our analysis, we estimate that the state-wide economic loss associated with fasciolosis is in the order of AUD 129 million (range AUD 38-193 million) per year or about AUD 50,000 (range AUD 15,000-75,000) per herd per year.