Global Change and Helminth Infections in Grazing Ruminants in Europe: Impacts, Trends and Sustainable Solutions
Infections with parasitic helminths (nematodes and trematodes) represent a significant economic and welfare burden to the global ruminant livestock industry. The increasing prevalence of anthelmintic resistance means that current control programmes are costly and unsustainable in the long term. Recent changes in the epidemiology, seasonality and geographic distribution of helminth infections have been attributed to climate change. However, other changes in environment (e.g., land use) and in livestock farming, such as intensification and altered management practices, will also have an impact on helminth infections. Sustainable control of helminth infections in a changing world requires detailed knowledge of these interactions. In particular, there is a need to devise new, sustainable strategies for the effective control of ruminant helminthoses in the face of global change. In this paper, we consider the impact of helminth infections in grazing ruminants, taking a European perspective, and identify scientific and applied priorities to mitigate these impacts. These include the development and deployment of efficient, high-throughput diagnostic tests to support targeted intervention, modelling of geographic and seasonal trends in infection, more thorough economic data and analysis of the impact of helminth infections and greater translation and involvement of end-users in devising and disseminating best practices. Complex changes in helminth epidemiology will require innovative solutions. By developing and using new technologies and models, the use of anthelmintics can be optimised to limit the development and spread of drug resistance and to reduce the overall economic impact of helminth infections. This will be essential to the continued productivity and profitability of livestock farming in Europe and its contribution to regional and global food security.
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