Parasitology Research

, Volume 117, Issue 9, pp 2725–2733 | Cite as

Seasonal variation of Fasciola hepatica antibodies in dairy herds in Northern Ireland measured by bulk tank milk ELISA

  • Andrew W. Byrne
  • Jordon Graham
  • James McConville
  • Georgina Milne
  • Stanley McDowell
  • Robert E. B. Hanna
  • Maria Guelbenzu-Gonzalo
Original Paper


Bovine fasciolosis, caused by the infection of the trematode parasite Fasciola hepatica, remains a problem in dairy herds causing significant production losses. In this study, bulk milk tank samples were utilised to generate a comprehensive survey of the variation in liver fluke exposure over the four seasons of 2016 in Northern Ireland (NI). Samples were tested using an antibody ELISA test; within-herd prevalence levels were categorised relative to sample-to-positive ratio (S/P%). Overall, 1494 herds (~ 50% of all active dairy farms in NI) were sampled. In total, 5750 samples were tested with 91% of herds having a sample result for each season. The proportion of herds with evidence of liver fluke exposure was very high across the year, with 93.03% of all bulk milk samples having some indication of liver fluke antibody presence. A high proportion of samples (2187/5750; 38.03%) fell within the highest infection class (indicating high within-herd prevalence). There was significant seasonal variation in the mean S/P%. A multivariable random effect ordinal logit model suggested that the greatest probability of being in a higher infection class was in winter, whilst the lowest was recorded during summer. There was a significant negative association between increasing herd liver fluke infection class and herd size. Furthermore, there was significant variation in infection levels across regions of Northern Ireland, with higher infection levels in northern administrative areas. This study demonstrates the very high liver fluke exposure in this region of Europe, and that risk is not equally distributed spatially or across seasons in dairy herds.


Bovine fascioliasis Dairy farming Trematode infection Parasite control Geographic risk 



The authors would like to thank the Brucella laboratory team in DSIB, AFBI, for kind assistance with this project, especially Sharon Cassidy-Collins. We would also like to acknowledge cooperation of the dairies with the project.

Funding information

Funding was received as part of a broader project on endemic diseases in Northern Ireland and co-infection of bovine tuberculosis (grant no. 15/3/10) by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Development.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Supplementary material

436_2018_5961_MOESM1_ESM.docx (108 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 108 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Agri-food and Biosciences InstituteVeterinary Science DivisionBelfastUK
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesQueens University BelfastBelfastUK
  3. 3.Animal Health IrelandLeitrimIreland

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