My Journey into Parasitology and Weather Smart Worm Control
Over the past 5 months I have had the privilege of working on novel parasite research and particularly so on Haemonchus contortus, also known as the barber’s pole worm. It is the most financially important parasite in tropical and sub-tropical regions. Worm infections in general are a key limiting factor for resource poor communities. Working on the weather smart worm control website in addition to parallel projects has provided me with a great glimpse into future livestock management techniques. Throughout my research assistant job at Queens University Belfast, it has been exciting to visualise how our research could improve food security in the areas which need it most.
Being part of a research community, which aims to accurately predict where and when Haemonchus contortus transmission is most probable, is very exhilarating. It is becoming evident that developing and driving forward new climate – parasite prediction techniques is crucial for future parasite control. Providing livestock with the drugs based on predicted weather conditions will ensure farmers can manage their livestock parasite burden as efficiently as possible. At the minute, the model used on this website shows data transmission potential over the past 30 years. After ongoing model validation is complete the model will be able to forecast transmission potential based on upcoming weather conditions.
It is not surprising that a sustainable and integrated approach to livestock management is particularly vital due to issues such as drug resistance and climate change. A combination of scientifically proven techniques such as FAMACHA, TST and the 5-point check provides a great foundation for future management practices. These techniques allow farmers to choose which animals are most in need of anthelminthic drugs. By treating only these animals, the burden of anthelminthic resistance is reduced.
Attending meetings in Botswana and Malawi during March 2019 highlighted how important collaboration is for driving this research forward and in translating it to meaningful results for farmers. Research partnerships with universities in these countries is continuing to prove the importance of techniques such as Targeted Selective Treatment. New research will also investigate practices such as using forage material with anthelminthic properties livestock diets. The future of the field is exciting and its clear that technology as well as translating research into a usable format will have enormous benefits contributing to global food security.