Animal Bytes is published freely by the British Society for Animal Science (BSAS). It’s there to let farmers and vets know what scientists are doing with funding from BSAS. Animal Bytes provides ‘short and incisive updates on topical themes and current research in UK animal science’.
A recent article that caught my eye in Animal Bytes is about worms. Parasitic worms. Worms often live in the guts of mammals, birds and anything else that has guts, eating and growing. The posh name for these greedy wigglers is ‘helminths’. They include some kinds of roundworms (nematodes), some kinds of flatworms (trematodes) and also tapeworms (cestodes).
If you’re a farmer, you care about the helminths in your livestock. They can make the animals ill, sometimes very ill, and that means your farm loses productivity. So routine livestock care involves worming. You give your animals drugs called anthelmintics to kill off at least some of their helminths.
Worms may not seem very clever but they’re good at breeding more worms and they’re good at evolving. They evolve resistance to anthelmintics. In fact, this is a huge problem for livestock farmers. That’s why, for example, there’s an industry-led project called Sustainable Control of Parasites in Sheep (SCOPS).
Animal Bytes tells us about drug-resistant helminths in cattle, sheep and deer. Drug-resistant strains of a common nematode called Haemonchus contortus have been found not only in cattle (Bos primigenius) and sheep (Ovis aries) but also in fallow deer (Dama dama), red deer (Cervus elaphus) and roe deer (Capreolus capreolus). The science, so far, tells us that cattle and sheep can give worms to deer. It doesn’t yet tell us whether deer can give worms back but that seems likely, doesn’t it?
You might choose to follow my tags for more about worms, livestock and deer. You also might choose to worm your animals, taking your vet’s advice about which anthelmintics are still working.