Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Wednesday, 30 September 2009 15:38 UK

Climate link to rise of parasite

The highest increase in infections were found in sheep

Vets have warned that the numbers of livestock infected with a harmful parasite could be at its highest recorded level.

The staff at the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) added that climate change was likely to make the problem with liver fluke worse in the future.

The college said 5% more sheep and 4% more cattle than last year have been diagnosed with the infection.

A snail that is a host for the parasite thrives in warm, wet conditions.

SAC said weather during this spring and summer had been ideal for the small snail and liver fluke.

Infected livestock tend to lose condition and and untreated, many die. The college said there was no threat to the food chain.

Farmers have been urged to treat animals against the parasite this autumn.

The college said: "SAC vets fear the numbers of cattle and sheep infected with liver fluke this year could be at the highest level ever.

"It is believed that the rise in fluke numbers, linked to rising temperatures and increased rainfall is another consequence of climate change and likely to get worse."

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