Skip navigation

University College Dublin Logo

Advanced Search

UCD News

Nuacht UCD

Posted: 03 May 2006

Irish Consortium Delivers on Fluke

Scientists from UCD Conway Institute and UCD School of Agriculture, Food Science and Veterinary Medicine have been awarded substantial funding from the European Commission to lead the fight against liver fluke; a major parasite of cattle, sheep, wildlife and man.

The liver fluke – Fasciola hepatica
The liver fluke – Fasciola hepatica

The consortium, which goes by the name of DELIVER, (Develop Effective and sustainable control strategies for LIVER fluke), harnesses existing expertise at University College Dublin, Queen’s University Belfast and the Agri-food and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland in an effort to develop new environmentally-friendly methods to control liver fluke disease in livestock, particularly cattle and sheep.

Liver fluke live, eat and breed in the liver of a host animal. By burrowing through the liver, they digest the tissue and leave a path of destruction in their wake. Annual losses to livestock production and the food industry in Ireland by liver fluke disease is estimated €60 million. This is set to rise given the experience of our EU neighbours who have recently recorded a dramatic twelve-fold increase in the occurrence of the parasite.

Currently, the problem of liver fluke disease is being tackled using pesticides and anti-parasitic drugs. However, such control measures are becoming both ineffective and undesirable as the fluke develop resistance to these drugs and environmental concerns question the safety of pesticides. Existing anti-parasitic treatments are accompanied by risks of chemical residues in foodstuffs.

Through the three-year DELIVER project, a variety of alternative control methods will be investigated. At UCD, Professor Grace Mulcahy, Dr Theo de Waal and Dr Jane Irwin aim to develop vaccines against fluke, improve methods of forecasting fluke disease and gain a greater insight into the mechanisms by which drugs act on the parasite. Dublin City University’s Dr. Sandra O’Neill and researchers from Queen’s University and the Agrifood and Biosciences Institute in Northern Ireland will also contribute to this research, the ultimate goal of which is to enhance the quality and safety of meat and dairy products.

Commenting on the recently funded consortium, Prof Mulcahy said: "This European-funded consortium will allow us to deliver real benefits to consumers in terms of improving food safety, to producers in providing new tools for rearing healthy animals, and to the European research area in terms of innovation".

The result of the DELIVER project will be made accessible by means of a dedicated website and online educational material. This will allow interested farmers and others working in the agri-food industry to track project progress and keep up to date with results as they emerge. Lara Media, a Dublin-based multi media company will design and manage the website and to produce educational material for the agri-food industry. Guidelines on best practice in the treatment of liver fluke will be produced on completion of the project.

Under the European Commission’s Framework 6 Programme, the DELIVER consortium was awarded €3.59 million, of which over €400,000 will be allocated to UCD. These scientists will also work with partners across Europe and in South America.

>> More News and Events
<< Back to Home