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Climate change and infectious disease: helminthological challenges to farmed ruminants in temperate regions

  • J. van Dijk (a1), N. D. Sargison (a2), F. Kenyon (a2) and P. J. Skuce (a2)

Abstract

In the UK, recent mean temperatures have consistently increased by between 1°C and 4°C compared to the 30-year monthly averages. Furthermore, all available predictive models for the UK indicate that the climate is likely to change further and feature more extreme weather events and a trend towards wetter, milder winters and hotter, drier summers. These changes will alter the prevalence of endemic diseases spatially and/or temporally and impact on animal health and welfare. Most notable among these endemic parasites are the helminths, which have been shown to be very strongly influenced by both the short-term weather and climate through effects on their free-living larval stages on pasture. In this review, we examine recent trends in prevalence and epidemiology of key helminth species and consider whether these could be climate-related. We identify likely effects of temperature and rainfall on the free-living stages and some key parasite traits likely to determine parasite abundance under changed climatic conditions. We find clear evidence that climate change, especially elevated temperature, has already changed the overall abundance, seasonality and spatial spread of endemic helminths in the UK. We explore some confounders and alternative explanations for the observed patterns. Finally, we explore the implications of these findings for policy makers and the livestock industry and make some recommendations for future research priorities.

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Keywords

Climate change and infectious disease: helminthological challenges to farmed ruminants in temperate regions

  • J. van Dijk (a1), N. D. Sargison (a2), F. Kenyon (a2) and P. J. Skuce (a2)

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