Liver fluke, also known as Fasciola hepatica, is a parasitic flatworm that infects the liver of various mammals, including cattle, sheep, goats, and deer. The adult flukes live in the liver's bile ducts, where they feed on blood and cause damage to the liver tissue.
Liver fluke has a complex life cycle that involves two hosts - snails and mammals. The adult flukes release eggs into the bile ducts, which are then excreted in the infected animal's feces. The eggs then hatch in water and develop into free-swimming larvae that infect a specific freshwater snail species. Inside the snail, the larvae develop into cercariae, which are released into the water and can infect grazing animals when they ingest contaminated vegetation or water.
In the host animal, the cercariae migrate through the intestine and liver, developing into immature flukes. The immature flukes then migrate to the bile ducts, where they mature into adult flukes and begin to feed on blood, causing damage to the liver tissue. Symptoms of liver fluke infection in cattle include decreased milk production, weight loss, anemia, and diarrhea. In severe cases, the infection can lead to liver damage and death.
Diagnosis of liver fluke infection is typically based on clinical signs, fecal examination, and blood tests. Prevention and control of liver fluke infection in cattle include regular deworming, pasture management to reduce snail habitats, and ensuring that animals have access to clean drinking water. In addition, treatment with specific flukicides is effective in controlling the infection.
Farmers should work with their veterinarians to develop a comprehensive parasite control program that includes liver fluke prevention and treatment.