SCOPS Podcast

Don’t get caught out by liver fluke – understanding and responding to risk (in association with Moredun)

Episode Summary

Ben is joined by Dr Philip Skuce, vet Davinia Hinde and farmer Brian Walker to discuss liver fluke.

Episode Notes

This episode is brought to you from SCOPS in association with the Moredun Research Institute in Midlothian.

For the final episode of this series, we are talking about liver fluke in this episode, explaining what it is, how it’s treated and the risk of resistance. Ben's co-host is Dr Philip Skuce, a senior research scientist at the Moredun Research Institute. 

Ben and Philip are joined by Davinia Hinde from Bainbridge Vets in the Yorkshire Dales and Brian Walker, a sheep farmer from Argyll. 

For more information on SCOPS visit

For our podcast disclaimer see here -

Episode Transcription

You are listening to the SCOPS Podcast.


Hello and welcome to episode four of this. First series of the SCOPS podcast, the show in which we put the spotlight on sustainable parasite control in sheep. And this episode is brought to you in association with the Morden Research Institute. I'm your host, Ben Eagle, a rural affairs, podcaster and journalist.


And today for our final episode of this series, we're talking about liver flu, what it is, how it's treated and the risk of resistance. My co host today is. Dr. Philip Skuce, a senior research scientist at the Morden Research Institute. Philip, welcome to the podcast. Thank you for doing this with me. Um, do you want to introduce yourself in slightly more detail, uh, and maybe tell us why liver fluke are so interesting from your perspective?


Thanks Ben. I'm a parasitologist by training. Uh, I've been working at the Moredun for almost 30 years. On various aspects of, uh, Helminth Parasite Control, that's, that's worms and fluke, uh, in livestock, um, you'd think they'd have it all sorted out by now. But I have a particular interest in fluke and I must confess an affection and, and respect for them as well.


Um, they're fascinating creatures really. Uh, they've got complicated life cycles and they've evolved to survive pretty much everything. But they're also genuinely important. livestock and human pathogens. Uh, let's go straight in and introduce our guests with us. We have Davinia Hind from Bainbridge Vets in the Yorkshire Dales.


Davinia was the second vet in the country to hold a certificate in advanced veterinary practice in sheep. Um, she's been recognized by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons as an advanced practitioner in sheep health and production. Uh, she's a member of the sheep. Vet Society Executive Committee, uh, and assessor for the RCVS on the advanced practitioner panel and is a member of SCOPS.


Gotta get that one in there. I also, with us is Brian Walker, who farms in Argyle. And Brian, I, I wondered if you can just tell us a bit more about your farm and your flock please. Hi. Um, yeah, I'm a tenant farmer in a guy on the west of Scotland and have been so for probably the last 20 odd years, having moved through from Persia.


We run two sheep stocks on two separate hills. One is predominantly all blackface and the other is mainly cheviots. The blackface stock are generally on the hill all the time and possibly come into a few lower fields occasionally for handlings and stuff like that. We're by the Cheviot sheep stock there on a very wet exposed hill and come down for quite a bit of the winter time.


We also are in the fortunate position that we can winter all our hogs at home as well. So we have basically a totally closed flock which we can manage.


Let's go straight into our discussion on liver fluke. Philip, I'm going to turn to you. What are liver fluke, first of all, and how much damage can they do? Uh, to grazing livestock, uh, well, liver fluke are highly pathogenic or disease causing flatworm parasites. Uh, they're amongst, uh, the most important production limiting pathogens of livestock in the UK.


Um, they typically have two hosts, uh, firstly, a tiny little mud snail intermediate host where they develop and multiply, uh, and secondly, a mammalian definitive or final hosts where they, they, they develop properly into adults and go on to shed eggs and start the whole cycle all over again. Um, Livestock become infected by ingesting the liver fluke cysts off the grass when they're grazing.


Those cysts are the result of the infectious stages shed from the infected snails. Um, and the cysts contain baby liver flukes, so poor unsuspecting animals take those in when they're grazing. They'll hatch when they get inside, they work out where they are, they're very clever little things. They know they're inside an animal and they'll penetrate, they'll come out of the cyst and penetrate the wall of the intestine.


and go off in search of the liver, and when they find the liver, they'll do their best to chew that to pieces. So in terms of the main, what they do to animals, the main impact of liver fluke disease is liver damage. The, the clues in the name. And the complications that that brings, things like anemia, they're blood feeders, they'll actually feed on quite a proportion of their diet is actually blood.


So you'll just see poor condition, poor weight gain, ill thrift, to use a nice Scottish term that Brian might recognise. Um, but they can be very damaging in sheep because sheep tend to have quite small... delicate livers. They're quite soft and easily, easily damaged. Although we mightn't see so much clinical disease in cattle, cattle can be very dramatically affected too.


Um, their livers tend to be bigger and tougher. Um, so the fluke have a harder time damaging them, but they'll still cause problems. And that can be weight gain, poor body condition, uh, poor reproductive performance, poor milk yield. So it has quite a significant effect, both clinically and in terms of production.


And weather and climate are important here, aren't they? So why do weather patterns and climatic differences impact on the extent of liver fluke? And also, where is it most prevalent as well on a UK basis? Yeah, I mean, that's a really important point. It's mainly due to the fact that liver fluke spends a significant proportion, almost half of its life cycle outside of the animal, on the ground, in the grass, in the snails.


Um, and that means that it's affected by the prevailing weather conditions and over time that's our climate. So they're exquisitely affected by temperature and rainfall. Most parasites like sort of warm, wet conditions and liver fluke are no exception. So they need those moist conditions for their eggs to hatch.


As you'll imagine or appreciate that wet conditions is ideal for the snail intermediate host. conditions to support the snails, but also to disseminate the fluke cysts onto the grass when the snails shed them, like little tadpoles come onto the grass and form cysts. So it needs, needs water there at all, at all times.


So it needs nice, a nice wet farm like Brian's got. Um, he used to joke he needed a jet ski to get around his farm at lambing time. So you'll appreciate how wet a farm Brian has and how much fluke has been an issue over the years on a farm like that. Ryan, can you give us the situation on your farm, um, in terms of, uh, how, how you're impacted and...


And how it impacts on your management as well. Yeah, well, basically, as Philip said, like this area is wet and generally wet all the time. And I know a lot of the work done around trying to manage fluke and stuff is trying to get your areas sorted out so that you have dry bits that you can sort of take the stock to at certain times in the year.


That's just not possible here. Um, you can't fence off wet areas, you would have nothing left in your farm. Actually, one of the worst sort of outbreak times that we actually find now in terms of, um, weather patterns is the fact that when we do get really dry weather, There's actually a bigger explosion of fluke in the livestock than there is in wet times.


Because I think the really wet areas that stock don't go into when it's wet become dried out. And the stock then go in to graze these areas which are totally full of fluke that they've never been in before. So it's, it is all basically down to being able to utilise whatever, um, drugs are available to control the fluke.


There's nothing we can do in terms of... on the ground management that will make any difference, unfortunately. Yeah, then, yeah. Let's bring you in with your vet hat on. Do you see variation between farms and the areas that you practice? We do, and even within farms themselves, different pastures have different fluke contamination.


We have a lot of hill farms, um, and it's kind of getting them to know where their pasture and where the risk is and what times of year they have risk for fluke. But certainly with our, with our geographical area, we see different areas and the Fluke will kick off at different times of the year in different areas.


Philip, climate change, there's obviously a lot of discussion about this, um, just interested in how this might impact on liver fluke and the way that we control it in the future. Yeah, I think, I think it will have an impact and I think to some extent we're, we're starting to see that it comes all back to the prevailing weather patterns and weather patterns over time as climate.


The UK Met Office have climate projections for the next few decades, which would suggest that we'll see hotter, drier summers in some parts of the world, warmer, wetter winters in other parts of the UK, and Fluke will respond to that. That's what I mean by we might see Fluke at different times of the year to what we've seen before, or different parts of the country.


Farmers have Maybe got used to fluke being quite predictable. Once it breaks out of that routine, it becomes quite a challenge. As Davinia says, how do you know and how would you recognize that fluke is changing on your farm? So we need, we need farmers to be aware of what they can do to spot fluke on the ground in the animals and how that responds and changes with the climate.


As I say, with this projected change to maybe hotter, drier summers, warmer, wetter winters, we might see maybe less transmission than we've seen. In the past, we had a seasonality where animals would, well, snails would be shedding in the summertime and the animals would be picking up cysts in the autumn and they'd show disease, present disease in the winter.


I think that that's starting to break down. We're not seeing that pattern as clearly as we would have done. So, as I say, we might see less transmission in the summer and the autumn, but we might see more during the winter. So you can get caught out. You could be treating when you don't need to or you can be missing a treatment when maybe you really should.


Treatments by calendar month, yeah, we used to be able to do that, but Fluke don't have a calendar, they don't play by the rules, and they will adapt to a changing climate, and we need to adapt with them. Do you expect to see changes? I think so. I think certainly this year, all bets are off with parasites generally, but it's definitely much like Philly was saying, you know, it used to be like, you know, end of October, everybody could go and trick the benders all and do their acute fluke stage.


Whereas now we're getting more chronic flukes in January and February, it's trying to monitor constantly all year round on the farm and making sure that we're hitting those target areas where we need to not trying to predict it like we used to. Philip, as Davinia was alluding to there, I mean 2023 has been a difficult year in terms of weather patterns.


Um, what might this mean for the prevalence of liver fluke in this coming autumn and winter? Um, and do we have any early indications from farm data? Yeah, I mean, you're right. It's been a funny old year. I don't mean to be flippant, but it's been a very strange weather patterns this year and fluke will respond to that.


If you remember, we had a really cold, dry, dry spring followed by quite a hot early summer. And then July, July and August for a washout, uh, we can top that off with a mini heat wave in September, accompanied by heavy rain, which doesn't seem to have stopped since. Uh, so it's fair to say there will be an impact on the timing and distribution of fluke this year and the challenge that grazing livestock will face.


There is a liver fluke forecast that's run, um, and hosted by NADIS, uh, National Disease Information Service. So that's worth a look. It gives regional fluke forecast based on weather patterns, specifically temperature and rainfall. There's a I use a horrible word algorithm in behind it that calculates the fluke risk based on that.


I mean, there's more to it than just the climate as we've discussed about ground conditions and access and all the rest of it. But I would encourage people to have a look at that for their region and see, see what that says. But it's generally predicting a low to medium risk this year with the usual exception of high risk hotspots in Scotland.


And I think Brian's sitting in one. So that's something to bear in mind going forward. It's almost certainly due to how dry it was at the start of the year, but we've seen in recent years. Fluke has been much lower and later. We did a little project in Argyle where Brian is, and Brian was included in this, where we just did a simple egg count test, and we'll come back to diagnostic options later, but just a simple test once a month to see when was fluke tending to peak.


And literally it was four months later than we thought and we thought we were the experts and the farmers who've been farming there for decades were also four months out, but they were also treating with a product that didn't work. It goes to sort of stress how important testing is and not just assume too much.


You are listening to the Scots podcast. Davinia, could I maybe ask you what testing options would you typically recommend for your farm plants and how does that work for you at farm level? You live in a part of the world where fluke risk is a wee bit more. a wee bit lower maybe or a bit more unpredictable than Brian?


So it depends what we're doing. So if we're doing bloods for something else, we'll often do fluke antibody at the same time. Um, otherwise we tend to use the copper antigen and individuals or fluke head counts just for convenience for farmers. They can drop that off at the surgery and then we can send that off for them.


Um, the other one we're doing a lot of is we do a lot of abattoir, um, monitoring liver reports back. Obviously, it depends on what your production system is. If you've not got fat lambs going through, you can't really do that or cull use. Um, and then we'll also, we use, a lot of our clients are now using, um, the farm post mortem contract service.


So, everything on farm gets post mortem that dies. So, we're using those as quite good sort of diagnostic monitoring data just to monitor you know, a post mortems we're doing ourselves, we'll use while we're doing a post mortem to check, you know, is there any OPA? We'll also check the liver at the same time just to make sure what our monitoring status is.


But I'd say the majority would be fecal samples, either the cotransgen or pooled egg counts. Excellent. It looks like you've got all the bases covered there. Uh, yeah, all, all the way through from blood tests, all the fecal tests. Brian, could I come to you? Um, we've, we've touched on this a little bit apart from sort of testing and treating, or Quite often treating without testing, uh, with respect, what other flu, flu control options are there?


And I mean, are, are they really practical for, for you? I think you've alluded to that already. Yeah, no, there's, there's not really anything else we can do just because the ground is so wet and we can't shift livestock off onto drier areas. So we are basically totally at the mercy of the fact that we can only use the drugs that are available now through the, the testing I've done with them.


You moved on over the last. three or four years, um, on the individual sampling of sheep every three weeks, so to speak. We discovered that Fasinex resistance is here in both our sheep stocks, so we are down to the likes of Flucaivir, the Clozantols, for both the sheep and cattle as a control. Now we know that this drug does not kill immatures, but it has been actually quite interesting over the last three years that In doing the trial work, we have discovered that although manufacturers recommendations say probably you need to dose every six weeks if you're in a really bad outbreak, but we've discovered that we can get to 12 weeks through doing the sampling before we need to do a second dose, which has been very interesting.


The other thing that has actually shown up in the pattern of sampling is that we're seeing very little problem in the back end. with liver fluke, and it's into almost February before we're needing to dose. And in the year before last, we took a group of hogs all the way through from now until August, sampling every three weeks, and discovered that one of the worst times, or the biggest incident of fluke eggs in the hogs was actually in July.


So it shows that there is a, quite a pattern of shift in how the fluke are operating. Yeah, that's very interesting to hear right from the cold face. I mean, just to make the point that other flukicides are available. Brian is very well attuned to the actual commercial names of products. I can never keep up, but I can never remember.


What's in them, but it's really important to know what's in them. There will be other products, uh, so it's the active ingredient in, in certain products that we we're a bit concerned about. But I mean, historically, the things that we, as, so-called experts chip out about alternative flute control. We talk about potentially housing animals.


Um, that's an interesting one. Capital farmers would quite often do that to avoid the amount of poaching and damage that cattle can do over the winter, and that gives you an opportunity to take them outta harm's way, test them. And treat them. And when they go back out again, they're not shedding eggs to get in the snails.


So there's all sorts of reasons for doing some testing and, uh, and treating around, around housing. Um, and we're even hearing some sheep farmers are putting animals in on, on slats over the winter. Just, I'm not sure if fluke is what's driving that, but... It's certainly it can potentially help, but there are other implications, cost implications with doing that, having the facilities to do that.


Um, and we talk about drainage as well. I mean, historically, that's, that's what even the old Department of Agriculture would have advised and even supported. But that's, that's all changing. I mean, agri environment schemes. Would would require the opposite nearly drains being blocked, blocked up to allow farms to re wet.


Not that Brian's farm needs any more wedding. Um, but for some really well intentioned projects and programs looking at, you know, improving and promoting biodiversity. And that's really important work too. But we need to be aware of the potential unintended consequences of doing that. And quite often these areas need actually need grazed.


That's part of the agri environment. Scheme, but that can have a risk attached, but That risk is manageable as Brian has shown by doing some testing, don't treat if you don't need to and, you know, and proving that when he does treat it works. Yeah, I was actually going to ask that question about the impact of agri environment schemes and how you balance that.


Thank you for making that point because I think that that is quite. That's quite key here. Actually, if I could just interrupt Ben, sorry, I forgot to say, actually, we've actually done a bit of work around fluke risk and agri environment schemes, working on salt marsh, which is a conservation project in the Solway Firth, but also peatland restoration up in Shetland and the other area.


Thank you. Uh, idea was around waiter scrapes, which are sort of little pawns dug into or like to fill up in the corner of a grazing field. But then they're all they all require, as I said, to be grazed for to keep the sword, the grass down for various various reasons. And I think, I mean, over the short period that we've been monitoring, um, the risk wasn't, you know, it seems that's a really bad idea, but it's manageable if you're testing.


You can see what the risk is and it takes, for example, with wader scrapes, it takes a while for the little snails to get in there for them to get infected. So there was a bit of a lag period before we started to see the mud snails come in and then fluke infection followed. But it is manageable. It's not a case of don't do it or it's no problem.


It's manageable if you're testing. You are listening to the Scots Podcast. I want to touch on resistance and I mean, we've talked about resistance in worms on the podcast so far, and people obviously know about that, but what's the situation in liver fluke? Yeah, it's a wee bit different. I mean, fluke does its own thing, really.


Um, unfortunately, yeah, we have some issues with resistance in liver fluke as well. As I say, the scenario is a wee bit different in that we don't yet have sort of the broad spectrum multi product. Uh, efficacy problems that you see with the roundworms, so you've got a white drench, yellow drench, clear drench resistance, and we've seen that across the country, and it was mentioned in previous podcasts.


So far, we only, and I say only in inverted commas, have resistance to one of the flucosides, and that is triclobendazole, that Davinia mentioned earlier. And it has been... It's arguably the most important or the best flukicide, if you like, in the sense that it can kill pretty much all stages of fluke in the final host when it's working, and it would be the product of choice for treating acute fluke in sheep.


The worry is that we don't have that many products to choose from. We only have really sort of five for sheep and maybe six total for cattle. Um, and as far as I know, there's no new flucocides in the pipeline. So, um, they also don't kill all stages as Brian alluded to. Um, trichobendazole can, but clozantil is a really effective flucoside and it comes in at six weeks, uh, six to seven weeks and can kill through to adult, but it can't kill those immatures.


And the other products that are available really only kill the adults. Um, but yeah, we just need to be really careful with the products we've got. Don't use them if you don't need them. Uh, use them wisely. Um, and that's if we're going to control fluke sustainably going forward. Resistance is a tricky one.


I mean, the science behind it is slowly evolving. And I think, again, it's different from the roundworms. That seems to be a... With roundworms, it's a kind of slow progression of... The resistance genes sort of build up in the population. But with fluke, because they've got the snail in the life cycle, you're getting eggs being shed from resistant parasites.


Resistant fluke, they get into the snails and they're basically cloned. So you suddenly have a little hotspot of resistant infection and a population that's resistant. And Brian has exactly that scenario on his farm. I was just going to say, I mean, how much resistance would you see, Davinia, in your practice, in your part of the country?


And I was going to pass it on to Brian after. We have a few farms that have trichobolinsol resistance, um, mainly due to overuse. There was a period of time when it was advised to do it monthly, um, throughout the full year. And they're the farms that have suffered because of it. Um, and then we're managing those in different ways with adulticides throughout the year now.


And you're based in Yorkshire, is that right? North Yorkshire. You're not Yorkshire. Yeah. The big problem we have as well is that a lot of our farms overwinter sheep on dairy farms. And of course, with dairy cows, you can only really use the triclobendazole, um, so we're getting them, some of them coming back with triclobendazole resistance, even if we didn't sort of send them with it.


So we're monitoring, but I think it's really, really important if people don't think the flucoside is working properly, that they actually investigate, we investigate it properly and then report it, because I think it gets under reported and under investigated like worm resistance. Yeah. And the, the fecal egg count or the fecal...


Yeah, Fecal egg count reduction test, if you like, or there's a copper antigen equivalent of that. They're really good indicators of, of, of treatment outcome. Yeah, that's really interesting. I mean, Brian, but you've, you've got any dad. I mean, I know you live in. Fruit Central, and there's resistance on most of the farms we looked at.


Yeah, I think that's been the case over in the West, and probably there's more resistance here than probably what we know of, because a lot of farms won't have actually tested for it, and possibly the resistance was on the farm before I came here, because I've always tended to rotate. the drugs in the time I've been here, and yet it still showed up.


I think it's seriously important that everybody now actually does fluke testing on their farm, and it would actually pay them to do so, I think. And one of the things that has come out very clearly in my own Sort of view and experience of watching my stock over the last three or four years and actually doing the dung sampling for the moor done on the sheep is that during that period my initial workings was to continue to dose my main flock as I had always done before but it showed up to me as that the sheep during, that were used during the trial work and weren't dozed until they were needed to be dozed were actually thriving better than the ones that I was dozing on my normal management system.


So therefore it was coming to my attention that actually dozing the animals when you didn't need to doze them was actually being detrimental to their health. So I think it is very important that people take this on board now and probably, apart from the health of the animals, could actually save themselves quite a lot of money.


Yeah, exactly. And, as you say, you're storing up problems down the line if you do blanket treat. So I think we're getting, hopefully we're getting... away from that, that message is starting to, to come through that we need to be much more fleet of foot and responsive. And the only way we can really do that is to involve testing.


Yeah, and I think it's quite important now that those who are involved in doing trial work and, and sort of generating funding to do so actually look at doing more trial work on the basis of individual flocks or herds of cattle over a full year. To see exactly how big a shift there is in patterns now, I think that's quite important.


Thanks Brian. Just a short point on cattle, which are of course impacted by this as well. Philip, I'm just wondering if you could just briefly talk us through that in terms of the main differences in terms of detection and treatment. I mean, there are no real differences in the sense that it's the same parasite in both and they pick it up exactly the same way.


Um, cattle pick up the cysts from grazing, the same as sheep do. Um, it's just as I said earlier, their livers tend to be bigger and tougher and maybe don't seem to be as clinically affected, but they, the liver really responds. It kind of turns chalky and can, you know, Dubinia mentioned, uh, down at the abattoir, big chunks of the liver will either be cut away or the whole liver will be condemned at slaughter uh, because there's so much.


Actual fluke damage and that that can turn into production impacts as well as clinical signs. So growth rates can be affected. Feed conversion efficiency, which is a really important one, can be can be knocked down as well and also reproductive success. Things that you maybe don't think of or associate with fluke and milk, milk yield.


So yeah, having a liver full of fluke is not a good thing for a big productive animal. You are listening to the Scops Podcast. I was going to ask Brian, and I think I might be able to guess the answer. What would he feel would help him in managing fluke going forward? I think very much the only thing that is left for us is to, someone to come up with a new drug, basically.


I don't see any other option really that would make any difference to areas that are totally wet and nothing could be done with drainage or fencing. Yeah. I mean, Davinia, would you have any wish list for, for research or, you know, the, the, the future of fluke control, if you, something that would help you?


I'd love a vaccine really, but. Yeah. I mean, I, I was going to touch on that very briefly. Uh, I mean, there is encouraging research going on in that. I mean, don't think we're, we've given up. We haven't. Just because animals don't become naturally immune doesn't mean we'll never have a vaccine. Uh, so there's a lot of work going on in Australia and Ireland and, and South America, uh, looking at candidate antigens that could in the future become liver flu vaccines.


Um, but that, that, that was the ultimate goal. That's the holy grail of fluke research, um, because you can protect animals from infection rather than having to treat them when they've got it. And it's a much greener solution that's more environmentally friendly. There's all sorts of reasons to do it. Um, but unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a lot in the natural immunity in sheep or cattle populations.


Uh, cattle do better than sheep because they're bigger. Uh, there doesn't seem to be a lot more to it than that. So, but watch the space that, that work is going on and we'll, we'll keep you posted. Before we wrap up, Philip, um, some people are starting to see rumen fluke being mentioned on lab reports. Um, should they be worried?


Um, I'd say no, not at this stage. Um, rumen fluke kind of are the new kids on the block. But yeah, we're seeing increasing reports of rumen fluke eggs and diagnostic reports based around egg counts. Because it's kind of the same test, and the eggs will appear the same way. Um, they've been in the UK for the last, well, we've seen them for the last 5 to 10 years.


Um, they're more common than liver fluke in some parts of the world. For example, Ireland has become rumen fluke central. They have a life cycle similar to liver fluke. They use the same little snail. We've found that out. So it's no surprise we find them on the same farm and even in the same animals. That said, clinical rumen fluke disease has been reported in cattle and sheep.


Going back to 2012 and 13, when liver fluke was, there was a big storm of liver fluke infection. We saw a couple of cases of clinical rumen fluke disease as well. Maybe no surprise, but I have to say it's extremely rare and it's been very rarely reported since. And it's invariably associated with large numbers of immature rumen fluke in the intestine.


Animals have taken in a lot of cysts over a short period of time. So that's sort of the acute rumen fluke equivalent of liver fluke. The advice for now would be not to treat livestock for rumen fluke, simply on the basis of finding eggs and a faecal sample. Only treat for rumen fluke if you have obvious clinical signs of rumen fluke disease.


And just finally, in terms of research, Philip, what's next when it comes to understanding and controlling liver fluke? You mentioned a possible vaccine, but I mean, what can listeners look forward to? Yeah, I did mention vaccine work. Um, diagnostic testing, there's a real gap there in being able to detect flu infections really early.


Uh, that's key. The current blood test is useful, but it's invasive. So researchers at the University of Liverpool are very close to having a lateral flow device. If you remember from the painful months testing for COVID, it's something similar. It would work on a drop of blood, uh, so that the farmer or the vet could take the sample.


At the pen side and get a quick answer very, very speedily. So, you know, it gets away from the length of time it takes to send samples off and wait for results. So that's really interesting. Um, also on the egg counting side, there's a couple of developments sort of using artificial intelligence now to To really speed up the process, because it's a slow, tedious process for the testing labs to do egg counts, um, but there's a few developments there, um, little sort of fluke modules that could be added to the automated fluke or to worm testing so that that's something to watch.


Um, also in terms of fluke risk in the environment, there's some really interesting work going on in Aberystwyth. They're looking at environmental DNA. So this is traces that the fluke and the snails leave behind them in the environment so it can help us sort of risk assess and map farms, uh, literally on the basis of, of DNA in a slimy trail.


And then just, just finally, in terms of just understanding the parasite better, this is a shameless plug for some of my Moredun colleagues and collaborators in Australia, but they've been working on, on organoids. I need to be careful with it, it sounds like a medical condition, but they're, they're mini organ systems.


So you basically have mini livers that we can grow in the lab and we can start to understand how the liver fluke cysts and the immatures and the growing adults actually interact. With these tissues and the host parasite interface, and that's a really detailed knowledge of what's going on. And that should hopefully help us.


Um, you know, and we can interface that with. powerful genome sequencing and genetics work that's going on elsewhere, and that will hopefully shed light on, as I say, really detailed host parasite interaction, the understanding of that, and hopefully that will find the liver fluke's Achilles heel, because it's eluded us so far.


Fascinating. Thanks for that, Philip. We'll leave it there. That is all we have time for. Big thanks to our guests today, Davinia Hind and Brian Walker, and thanks also to my co host, of course, for this episode. Dr. Philip Skuce. Thank you very much for listening. Please see the show notes for more information, including our podcast disclaimer.


Um, and that's it for this first series of the podcast. Um, we really hope that you've enjoyed it, and please do leave us a rating and review. If you're listening on for podcasts, Spotify, or wherever else you're streaming the podcast. Uh, please also head to the SCS website, which is where you can find heaps of other information there.


I've been your host, Ben Eagle, and you've been listening to the SCOPS podcast.