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Study assigns economic cost to drug-resistant parasitic worms

Drug-resistant parasites cost European livestock industry 38 million euros each year.

An international research study has estimated that drug-resistant parasitic worms cost the European livestock industry millions of euros per year in production losses and veterinary costs, according to the European Cooperation in Science & Technology (COST).

Parasites can cause major welfare and productivity problems in cattle, sheep and goats worldwide, affecting growth, fertility and milk production. What's worrying, COST said, is that drug resistance is increasing against the veterinary medicines widely used to treat and prevent infection, which means current farming methods may not be sustainable in the longer term.

A new study has estimated that parasitic worms cost the European livestock industry more than 1.8 billion euros per year, with drug resistance costing at least 38 million euros per year in production losses and treatment costs.

COST said the study can support the identification of livestock sectors and regions where the largest losses occur and inform control programs and research policies at the national and European levels.

Agricultural economic data were combined with the latest data on the levels of disease and drug resistance in 18 European countries, COST said, noting that data were not available for all European countries and that only one class of veterinary medicine was included in the analysis. Five classes of veterinary medicine are available in Europe to treat parasitic worms in livestock, and drug resistance is widespread against at least three of these classes, COST said, adding that the actual costs "are likely to be higher than the conservative estimates reported in the study."

The study was led by Dr. Johannes Charlier of the scientific consultancy Kreavet in Belgium as part of a COST action known as COMBAR (Combatting Anthelmintic Resistance in Ruminants). It involved a total of 23 organizations that brought together regional expertise and the latest data on the economic impacts of parasitic disease in the European livestock industry.

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