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Bovine lungworm in a changing climate; epidemiology and sustainable control in the face of reduced anthelmintic efficacy

   School of Biological Sciences

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  Dr David Bartley, Dr Darren Shaw  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (UK Students Only)

About the Project

Project offered for Ker Memorial PhD Studentship in Infectious Diseases

D. viviparus outbreaks have increased 10-fold in recent years. Clinical disease costs the dairy industry ~£140 per adult cow, fewer estimates have been calculated for beef cattle but one study reported ~9kg weight loss over a 4-week period in uncontrolled experimental infections.  

Infections are controlled through, anthelmintic administration, vaccination and/or pasture management. Studies conducted in the 1980s compared vaccination programs and long-acting anthelmintic administration, concluding that each method, soley and in combination, conferred similar levels of protection and importantly, that natural immunity was allowed to develop in those animals treated with anthelmintics. Over 40 years later we are lacking an updated perspective, taking into account extended grazing seasons, changing climatic conditions, suspect cases of anthelmintic failure and shifts in management advice to encourage farmers to winter cattle outdoors where possible. Despite the availability of diagnostic tools, prophylactic and reactive treatment options, outbreaks of lungworm are increasing in the UK. This project will use applied parasitology and molecular tools to assess lungworm epidemiology and anthelmintic efficacy in the field. In collaboration with industry partners, farmers and vets we will assess the current state of play with respect to bovine lungworm epidemiology throughout the year and investigate reports of possible emergence of anthelmintic resistance.

The limited data available suggests that vaccine uptake remains low, particularly on beef farmer. Previous works suggested that the most common barrier was the lack of perceived need or risk. With this in mind, the second objective will be to evaluate stakeholder opinion and drivers associated with uptake of, and barriers associated with, current control tools. A questionnaire survey we will explore the relative importance of lungworm to cattle producers and the prevalence of parasitic bronchitis on farms using participatory epidemiology. Exploring the drivers and barriers associated with uptake of current control recommendations, and predicting future epidemiological trends for this parasite, will inform the design of sustainable, integrated control plans. Stakeholder focus groups will be conducted to identify the drivers/barriers of vaccine uptake and to evaluate understanding of the level and longevity of protection afforded by different control strategies. Outputs will be used to co-develop interactive knowledge exchange tools with a panel of stakeholders, to improve industry knowledge about the parasite, disease and sustainable control options. Knowledge exchange tools will be disseminated to cattle vets, producers, academics and the general public via agricultural shows and outreach activities.

Dave Bartley webpage

Darren Shaw webpage


McCarthy C, Vineer HR, Morgan ER, van Dijk J, (2022). Predicting the unpredictable? A climate-based model of the timing of peak pasture infectivity for Dictyocaulus viviparus. Veterinary Parasitology. 309: 109770.
Vanhecke M, Charlier J, Strube C, Claerebout E, (2021). Risk factors for lungworm-associated milk yield losses in grazing dairy cattle. Veterinary Parasitology. 292: 109414.
Charlier J, Ghebretinsae A, Meyns T, Czaplicki G, Vercruysse J, Claerebout E, (2016). Antibodies against Dictyocaulus viviparus major sperm protein in bulk tank milk: Association with clinical appearance, herd management and milk production. Veterinary Parasitology. 232: 36-42.
Cresswell E, Brennan ML, Barkema HW, Wapenaar W, (2014). A questionnaire-based survey on the uptake and usage of cattle vaccines in the UK. Veterinary Record Open. 1: e000042.
Holzhauer M, van Schaik G, Saatkamp HW, Ploeger HW, (2011). Lungworm outbreaks in adult dairy cows: estimating economic losses and lessons to be learned. Veterinary Record. 169(19): 494.

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