Within the 7th Research Framework Program, the European Union has provided 3 Million Euro for an international research project on “innovative and sustainable strategies to mitigate the impact of global change on helminth infections in ruminants”. The project known as GLOWORM, an abbreviation for “GLObal changes in parasitic WORMs” has been designated for a period of three years and officially kicked off with its first Steering Group meeting from 22-24 February 2012 in Berlin.
Worms (helminths) are ubiquitous pathogens and are present on every animal farm. Grazing animals are exposed to helminth infections on pasture and any future intensification of livestock farming, as part of CAP reform, improved farming efficiency, etc. will also increase the risk of helminth disease. Gastrointestinal worms and liver fluke have been ranked as the top two causes of livestock productivity losses in the EU. Nowadays, in the European situation, the major impact of parasitism is due to sub-clinical infections causing production losses that affect the production of meat, milk and the value of fibre, fleece/hide and skin products.
Most worms have a stage that occurs outside the animal host, which is sensitive to environmental factors and, therefore, will be affected by changes in climate. In recent years, sharp increases in helminth-associated disease frequency and intensity, along with changing seasonal patterns and geographical distribution have been reported in some regions in Europe. Climate change, which increases the developmental success of parasites, is thought to be one of the key drivers behind this trend. If this trend continues (as predicted) European farmers may be faced with new and unfamiliar parasitological challenges that they are ill-equipped to meet. Another equally important driver is treatment failure through anthelmintic resistance (AR), which threatens the sustainability and efficiency of livestock production all over Europe. Control of worms still relies heavily on frequent drug treatments each year and AR is a major threat to sustainable control of helminths in the future. Resistance to more than one class of drug is increasing in many countries in the EU. Additional factors such as altered land use and farm management practices will also play a role.
The basic aims of GLOWORM are, therefore, to develop innovative technologies to monitor and predict the changing patterns of infection and disease and to translate these into practical worm control strategies. The concepts of the GLOWORM project follow on from existing and long-standing partnerships and know-how from several previous EU-funded projects and networks (e.g. PARASOL, DeLIVER & DISCONTOOLS). The GLOWORM project brings together the expertise from 14 European participants. Apart from university-based researchers, four SME, companies are involved in the project comprising a multitude of disciplines such as parasitology, epidemiology, molecular biology, farming systems and GIS. The project is coordinated by Professor Jozef Vercruysse of the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ghent University, Belgium.
Thus, the overall objectives of GLOWORM are to:
- Optimise diagnosis of helminthoses in European livestock at individual and herd level, through use of robust and simplified sampling protocols and high-throughput diagnostic platforms
- Predict current and future trends in helminth infection in grazing livestock and the impact of global changes on the epidemiology of parasitic infections as well as distribution and spread of AR
- Develop strategies for the sustainable management of helminth infections in a changing European agricultural landscape
- Improve disease surveillance and forecasting systems based on the establishment of risk maps for important helminth species affecting the European livestock sector
- Develop optimised anthelmintic resistance monitoring and treatment strategies to establish guidelines for sustainable control
- Dissemination of the results to the wider scientific community, farmers, veterinarians, pharmaceutical industry and other potential end-users
GLOWORM will contribute to the continued productivity and profitability of European livestock farming by delivering new tools, strategies and recommendations for the monitoring, surveillance, and sustainable control of helminth infections in grazing livestock.
Attached photo of first steering group meeting and GLOWORM logo