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Nat Commun. 2012 May 22;3:853. doi: 10.1038/ncomms1840.

Fasciola hepatica is associated with the failure to detect bovine tuberculosis in dairy cattle.

Author information

Institute of Infection and Global Health and School of Veterinary Science, University of Liverpool, Liverpool, L69 7ZJ, UK.
Division of Medicine, University of Lancaster, Lancaster, LA1 4YB, UK.
School of Veterinary Medicine, University College Dublin, Belfield, Dublin 4, Ireland.
Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Bacteriology Department, Veterinary Sciences Division, Stormont, Belfast BT4 3SD, UK.
Contributed equally


Bovine tuberculosis (BTB) is a significant and intractable disease of cattle caused by Mycobacterium bovis. In the United Kingdom, despite an aggressive eradication programme, the prevalence of BTB is increasing with an unexplained, exponential rise in cases year on year. Here we show in a study involving 3,026 dairy herds in England and Wales that there is a significant negative association between exposure to the common, ubiquitous helminth parasite, Fasciola hepatica and diagnosis of BTB. The magnitude of the single intradermal comparative cervical tuberculin test used to diagnose BTB is reduced in cattle experimentally co-infected with M. bovis and F. hepatica. We estimate an under-ascertainment rate of about one-third (95% confidence interval 27-38%) among our study farms, in the hypothetical situation of no exposure to F. hepatica. This finding may in part explain the continuing spread of BTB and the failure of the current eradication programme in the United Kingdom.

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