Cluster analysis of fasciolosis in dairy cow herds in Munster province of Ireland and detection of major climatic and environmental predictors of the exposure risk
Fasciolosis caused by Fasciola hepatica is a widespread parasitic disease in cattle farms. The aim of this study was to detect clusters of fasciolosis in dairy cow herds in Munster Province, Ireland and to identify significant climatic and environmental predictors of the exposure risk. In total, 1,292 dairy herds across Munster was sampled in September 2012 providing a single bulk tank milk (BTM) sample. The analysis of samples by an in-house antibody-detection enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay
... immunosorbent assay (ELISA), showed that 65% of the dairy herds (n = 842) had been exposed to F. hepatica. Using the Getis-Ord Gi* statistic, 16 high-risk and 24 low-risk (P <0.01) clusters of fasciolosis were identified. The spatial distribution of high-risk clusters was more dispersed and mainly located in the northern and western regions of Munster compared to the low-risk clusters that were mostly concentrated in the southern and eastern regions. The most significant classes of variables that could reflect the difference between high-risk and low-risk clusters were the total number of wet-days and rain-days, rainfall, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI), temperature and soil type. There was a bigger proportion of well-drained soils among the low-risk clusters, whereas poorly drained soils were more common among the high-risk clusters. These results stress the role of precipitation, grazing, temperature and drainage on the life cycle of F. hepatica in the temperate Irish climate. The findings of this study highlight the importance of cluster analysis for identifying significant differences in climatic and environmental variables between high-risk and low-risk clusters of fasciolosis in Irish dairy herds.