Original Research

Epidemiological studies of amphistome infections in cattle in the highveld and lowveld communal grazing areas of Zimbabwe

D.M. Pfukenyi, S. Mukaratirwa, A.L. Willingham, J. Monrad
Onderstepoort Journal of Veterinary Research | Vol 72, No 1 | a224 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/ojvr.v72i1.224 | © 2005 D.M. Pfukenyi, S. Mukaratirwa, A.L. Willingham, J. Monrad | This work is licensed under CC Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0
Submitted: 17 September 2005 | Published: 17 September 2005

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D.M. Pfukenyi,
S. Mukaratirwa,
A.L. Willingham,
J. Monrad,

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During the period between January 1999 and December 2000, the distribution and seasonal patterns of amphistome infections in cattle in the highveld and lowveld communal grazing areas of Zimbabwe were determined through monthly coprological examination. Cattle faecal samples were collected from 12 and nine dipping sites in the highveld and lowveld communal grazing areas, respectively. Patterns of distribution and seasonal fluctuations of intermediate host-snail populations and the climatic factors influencing the distribution were also determined by sampling at monthly intervals for a period of 24 months (November 1998 to October 2000) in six dams and six streams in the highveld and in nine dams in the lowveld communal grazing areas. Each site was sampled for relative snail density and the vegetation cover and type, physical and chemical properties of water, and mean monthly rainfall and temperature were recorded. Aquatic vegetation and grass samples 0-1 m from the edges of the snail habitats were collected monthly to determine the presence or absence of amphistome metacercariae. Snails collected at the same time were individually checked for the emergence of larval stages of amphistomes. A total of 16 264 (calves 5 418, weaners 5 461 and adults 5 385) faecal samples were collected during the entire period of the study and 4 790 (29.5 %) of the samples were positive for amphistome eggs. For both regions the number of animals positive for amphistome eggs differed significantly between the 2 years, with the second year having a significantly higher prevalence (P < 0.01) than the first year. Significantly higher prevalences were found in the highveld compared to the lowveld (P < 0.001), for adult cattle than calves (P < 0.01), and in the wet over the dry season (P < 0.01). Faecal egg output peaked from October to March in both years of the study. Bulinus tropicus, Bulinus forskalii and Biomphalaria pfeifferi were recorded from the study sites. The main intermediate host for amphistomes was B. tropicus with a prevalence of infection of 8.5 %. However, amphistome cercariae were also recorded in Biom. Pfeifferi and B. forskalii. Amphistome cercariae were recorded from both the highveld and lowveld areas with peak prevalence during the post-rainy season (March to May). Metacercariae were found on herbage from the fringes of the snail habitats between February and August, with most of the metacercariae concentrated on herbage 0-1 m from the edges of the habitats.
Based on the epidemiological findings a control programme was devised. From this study, large burdens of immature flukes could be expected in cattle during the dry months.
Since adult cattle would be resistant to the pathogenic effects of the migrating immature amphistomes the target for control would be young animals being exposed to the infection for the first time.
Therefore, the first anthelmintic treatment can be administered in calves in mid June when maximum migration of immature amphistomes starting 3-4 weeks after infection in the early dry season would be expected. A second treatment could be given in late July or early August to remove potentially dangerous burdens of immature flukes acquired later in the dry season. Where resources permit, another strategy would be to treat against the mature flukes in March or April in order to reduce the number of eggs deposited on pastures and the opportunity for infection of the intermediate host snails. To reduce cercarial shedding by the intermediate host snails molluscicides can also be applied during the peak transmission periods (April/May and August/September).


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