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Innovative and sustainable strategies to mitigate the impact of global change on helminth infections in ruminants

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Helminth infections detected and managed

Infection by parasitic worms known as helminths poses a serious threat to European livestock farming. An EU-funded initiative has developed diagnostic assays and predictive tools for mitigating their impact.


Environmental and climatological changes have altered the epidemiology and geographic distribution of parasite infections in ruminant livestock in Europe. Combined with the emergence of resistance to anthelmintic drugs, parasites now represent a major socioeconomic burden since existing control measures are no longer effective. The aim of the GLOWORM (Innovative and sustainable strategies to mitigate the impact of global change on helminth infections in ruminants) project was to develop sensitive and high-throughput technologies to detect and manage parasites at an early stage. Consortium members also created forecasting models capable of predicting the risk of disease. These take into account geographical and temporal information on parasite abundance and how they are influenced by farm management practices. The models can also be used to assess the necessity and impact of certain intervention strategies. State-of-the-art technologies were employed to develop immunological and DNA-based diagnostic assays. In addition, the team incorporated into the framework detailed information on the impact of gastrointestinal nematode and liver fluke infections and climatic influences. A survey on parasite prevalence and distribution was used to derive parasitological data and incorporate it into the geographic information system database alongside climatic, environmental and farm management data. Field studies helped in mapping parasite distribution across Europe. To assess the outcome of anthelmintic treatments, project partners devised a series of response indicators such as weight, body condition, milk yield and presence of specific antibodies. Results reveal that targeted selective treatment approaches could maintain animal productivity while strongly reducing the number of required treatments. Reducing cost and time barriers to the uptake of these parasitological tests will increase the frequency of their application on farms. These techniques made use of existing laboratory infrastructure and are, therefore, directly applicable now. The addition of an online tool for determining the effectiveness of anthelmintic treatments by faecal egg count reduction test (FECRT) ensured that the interpretation of FECRT was statistically robust. This will enable veterinarians to deliver high-quality advice based on sound science. GLOWORM combined diagnostic assays with a model for predicting the effects of climate change and management on seasonal helminth infection. The results can help provide recommendations that can be implemented in daily farm management. Such evidence-based decisions will help to improve the current situation regarding parasitic infections in livestock.


Helminth, infections, livestock, farming, diagnostic assays, anthelmintic

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