University of Liverpool Background
Fasciola hepatica, the common liver fluke, is a ubiquitous and highly pathogenic parasite affecting sheep and cattle in the UK and around the globe. Traditionally, control of liver fluke has relied on repeated, whole flock or whole herd treatment with veterinary medicines (flukicides) that target the parasite. Resistance to at least one class of flukicide is widespread in UK with unconfirmed reports of resistance to other classes in the literature.
The lateral flow test is based on an existing diagnostic ELISA developed by the University of Liverpool. It detects antibodies to antigens within excretory-secretory products collected from adult parasites. The test works with a drop of blood and, working with farmers and vets, we have developed the optimum way for farmers to sample animals. The test is ideal for testing sheep, particularly lambs, in the autumn to assess when challenge occurs since it picks up antibodies two to four weeks after infection. It can also be used to test cattle, particularly first season grazing calves at housing and dairy cows at drying off.
Independent industry advisory groups, Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS) (https://www.scops.org.uk) and Control of Parasites Sustainably (COWS) https://www.cattleparasites.org.uk ) strongly advocate diagnostic testing to establish that a group of animals is infected, before treatments are administered. That presents practical problems around testing animals then having to wait several days before results are available from laboratory tests.
Liverpool researchers have developed a lateral flow style test that detects antibodies to liver fluke. It can be used on farms, by farmers and vets to test both sheep and cattle and takes about 10 minutes to run. This gives immediate information about the infection status of the animals and can inform treatment decisions. The test has been trialled on about 30 farms in Wales, England and Scotland and has been met with great enthusiasm by farmers and vets.
Widespread use in the farming industry, Fasciola hepatica is found in 50 countries worldwide.
We are looking for a commercial partner to work with us to finalise the design of the test and bring it to market.
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