Johannes Charlier
“When I developed an Elisa test to diagnose liver fluke in dairy cattle herds for my previous employer, I had no idea that this would allow VECMAP to map the disease at a continental scale" – Johannes Charlier, CTO Avia-GIS
Fasciola hepatica in Europe
Liver flukes, Fasciola hepatica, are parasites of cattle. The cows are infected when the parasite shed by its intermediary host, a mud snail, is eaten together with grass. Liver fluke causes severe economic damage, especially by impeding milk production from dairy herds. Global losses are estimated at US$3 billion per year. The presence of liver fluke has been mapped under the EU FP7 GLOWORM project, which operated in five countries from Ireland to Poland. The fieldwork and sampling phase of the project was an unusual one. It is not necessary to hunt for the snail in the open air to determine its presence. Instead, cattle with liver fluke infection produce antibodies which are detectable in their milk. Sampling the tanks in which milk is collected on farms allows the whole herd to be sampled and shows the presence of both fluke and snails in pasture. The project sampled 3,359 tanks in all.
Drone based pasture risk model for Galba truncatula

This approach enabled VECMAP to produce the first European risk map for liver fluke, a unique data product which has a range of uses. It is obviously of policy and research interest, as it shows the location of the ecological and climate conditions that the vector prefers. But it has also been used to drive business strategy in the animal health industry. The maps allow businesses which have developed new treatments for liver fluke, to send their sales force to the areas of highest risk, having a fully scientific basis for their efforts.

It was also possible to supplement at the individual farm level VECMAP’s insights with data gathered by drones, which offer resolutions of a few centimetres. This approach allowed hotspots to be identified in problem farms where cattle and snails are especially likely to come into contact. Avia-GIS can then help the farmer to decide what steps might help manage the risk at farm level, perhaps by draining marshy areas of pasture.