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      Relative importance of management, meteorological and environmental factors in the spatial distribution of Fasciola hepatica in dairy cattle in a temperate climate zone.

      International Journal for Parasitology

      Animal Husbandry, methods, Animals, Antibodies, Helminth, analysis, Belgium, epidemiology, Cattle, Cattle Diseases, parasitology, Climate, Demography, Fasciola hepatica, isolation & purification, Fascioliasis, veterinary, Longitudinal Studies, Milk, immunology

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          Fasciola hepatica, a trematode parasite with a worldwide distribution, is the cause of important production losses in the dairy industry. Diagnosis is hampered by the fact that the infection is mostly subclinical. To increase awareness and develop regionally adapted control methods, knowledge on the spatial distribution of economically important infection levels is needed. Previous studies modelling the spatial distribution of F. hepatica are mostly based on single cross-sectional samplings and have focussed on climatic and environmental factors, often ignoring management factors. This study investigated the associations between management, climatic and environmental factors affecting the spatial distribution of infection with F. hepatica in dairy herds in a temperate climate zone (Flanders, Belgium) over three consecutive years. A bulk-tank milk antibody ELISA was used to measure F. hepatica infection levels in a random sample of 1762 dairy herds in the autumns of 2006, 2007 and 2008. The infection levels were included in a Geographic Information System together with meteorological, environmental and management parameters. Logistic regression models were used to determine associations between possible risk factors and infection levels. The prevalence and spatial distribution of F. hepatica was relatively stable, with small interannual differences in prevalence and location of clusters. The logistic regression model based on both management and climatic/environmental factors included the factors: annual rainfall, mowing of pastures, proportion of grazed grass in the diet and length of grazing season as significant predictors and described the spatial distribution of F. hepatica better than the model based on climatic/environmental factors only (annual rainfall, elevation and slope, soil type), with an Area Under the Curve of the Receiver Operating Characteristic of 0.68 compared with 0.62. The results indicate that in temperate climate zones without large climatic and environmental variation, management factors affect the spatial distribution of F. hepatica, and should be included in future spatial distribution models. Copyright © 2010 Australian Society for Parasitology Inc. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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