This study investigated the epidemiological and molecular aspects of dicrocoeliosis in extensive sheep farms.
From 2013 to 2014, copromicroscopical analyses in 190 dairy sheep farms and anatomo-pathological inspections in six slaughterhouses were carried in Sardinia, Italy. Rectal faecal samples were analyzed using the FLOTAC® method, and anatomo-pathological examinations were based on detecting thickened terminal bile ducts (TTBDs). In addition, genetic analyses were conducted on representative DNA samples of adult Dicrocoelium spp.
Ninety-seven (51.1%) out of 190 sheep farms were coprologically positive for Dicrocoelium spp. In the liver, on the surface and cut surface, TTBDs were reported in 40.1% (309/770) and 15.3% (118/770) of the animals examined, respectively, with an overall prevalence of 25.5% (196/770). No intraspecific genetic variation was observed among the Dicrocoelium dendriticum isolates.
Our survey reveals the widespread presence of D. dendriticum in Sardinia, although seasonal, geographical and climatic conditions might be key factors in modulating the infection prevalence. Examining typical lesions due to D. dendriticum in the liver in abattoirs can be used as a marker for tracking chronic dicrocoeliosis infection.