Climate and the epidemiology of gastrointestinal nematode infections of sheep in Europe

E. R. Morgan, J. van Dijk

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


The free-living stages of gastrointestinal nematode parasites of sheep are strongly affected by climate. Thus, extreme heat and cold are detrimental to development and survival, while, within tolerable limits, increasing temperatures generally accelerate development but increase mortality. Moisture is needed for development and translation of larvae from faeces to pasture, and so rainfall is a limiting factor for transmission. Together, these factors underpin seasonal patterns of infection in sheep, as well as geographic variation in the epidemiology and relative importance of different species within Europe. Local knowledge and experience enable treatment to be targeted appropriately to prevent dangerous levels of infection. This traditional know-how can be supplemented by predictive epidemiological models, built on thorough understanding of the influence of climate on larval availability. However, management also has a dominant role in determining patterns of infection, and is itself influenced by climate. Current geographic variation in nematode epidemiology across Europe, and knowledge of systems from outside Europe, can provide only limited perspectives on the likely effects of climate change on disease in future. This is because disease arises from complex interaction between host and parasite factors, and the implementation of optimal control strategies to meet new challenges will be slowed by the inertia of current systems. Approaches to nematode control must therefore take account not only of parasite biology, but also the forces that shape sheep farming systems and management decisions. (C) 2012 Published by Elsevier B.V.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)8-14
Number of pages7
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2012


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