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MOLECULAR EPIDEMIOLOGY OF SMALL RUMINANT FASCIOLOSIS IN SELECTED REGIONS OF AZAD JAMMU AND KASHMIR.

Byline: Ahmad, I. A. Z. Durrani, M. S. Khan, K. Ashraf, M. Avais, M. Ijaz, M. H. Saleem, M. Saeed, N. Ahmad and K. Hameed

ABSTRACT

The present study was carried out to determine prevalence of Fasciolosis in sheep and goats at three different altitudes viz; 6000 feet above sea level in Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK). Rectal faecal samples from 4662 small ruminants (n=2242 sheep; n=2420 goats) were collected during the year 2012. The samples were examined by centrifugal floatation and sedimentation techniques while egg per gram (EPG) count was performed through McMaster technique. Prevalence of Fasciolosis in sheep and goats was 26.49% and 9.91%, respectively with an overall prevalence of 17.88%. The prevalence in both the species of animals was significantly different (P<0.05) at altitude 6000 feet. When compared, significant difference (P<0.05) was observed in different season, age groups and flock sizes. The intensity of infection (EPG) at different altitudes in sheep and goats was significantly different (P<0.05).

It was concluded that Fasciolosis was prevalent in AJK with variable prevalence and intensity at different altitudes. Further studies are required to identify the Fasciola species involved in the disease in different species of animals in different climates for tactical control measures.

Keywords: Fasciolosis, Small ruminants; Altitudes; Azad Jammu and Kashmir;

INTRODUCTION

The state of Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK) is located at the foothill of Himalayas, north east of Pakistan. It lies between 730Adeg-750Adeg and 330Adeg-360Adeg longitude and latitude (Ahmad et al. 2012). Azad Jammu and Kashmir has unique geographic and topographic distribution and is comprised of mountainous ranges with heights of 4734 m high in the north and with plains and valleys in the south with an average rainfall of 1500 mm (Afshan et al. 2011). Sheep and goats raising is a profession of tribes and nomads and many other farming communities in AJK. Sheep and goats contribute to the livelihood of the rural poor especially in high altitudes as in Himalayas. Poor management and hygiene leads to various parasitic diseases. The diverse agro climatic conditions, animal husbandry practices and pasture management practices determine the incidence and severity of various parasitic infections in grazing animals.

Information on the prevalence and epidemiological pattern of the parasitic diseases in different climatic conditions provide a basis for evolving strategic and tactical control measures for such diseases (Mir et al. 2013). Among parasites, Fasciolosis is one of the major diseases of sheep and goats in different parts of Pakistan (Akhtar et al. 2012). Fasciola spp. are the causative agent of Fasciolosis in sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo, pig, rabbit, elephant, dog, cat and kangaroo. Human and equine are unusual hosts. Transmission depends on an intermediate host, the lymnae snail. Animal ingests metacercaria and the worm migrates to the liver where it causes extensive damage and the mature worm inhabits the bile duct (Seldemir 2000). Clinical disease is well known however, sub clinical infections are often remain unnoticed, leading to marked economic losses, reduced milk yield, weight loss, reduced fertility and immunity (Schweizer et al. 2005).

The disease is unique in having endemic areas that range from below sea level to altitudes of up to 13123 feet (Mas-Coma et al. 2008). Data are lacking with reference to its prevalence at different altitudes and geographical areas. Studies in Pakistan revealed that it is endemic in sheep, goats, cattle, buffalo and human. In the country, surveillance record showed an estimated prevalence of 14.71% in Punjab, 17.68% in Bahawalpur, 23.97% in Multan, 10.48% in Lahore and 55% in Peshawar. These reports are mostly outdated and restricted to limited study areas (Iqbal et al. 2002). Moreover the disease is highly susceptible to climatic factors (Fuentes et al. 2001) and climate change affects the transmission of the disease (Mas-Coma et al. 2008). This study depicts the prevalence of Fasciolosis and its association with higher altitudes in small ruminants in AJK.

MATERIALS AND METHODS

Study Areas and sample size: The study based on altitudes was carried out in three districts of AJK; Mirpur, Poonch and Neelam. Three towns from each district were randomly selected and included in the study (Fig. 1). Fecal samples from 4662 small ruminants (n=2242 sheep; n=2420 goats) were collected. Details of towns and sample size are given in Table 1. Information regarding each sheep and goat was entered in "Data Capture Form" which included altitude, species, season, gender, age, flock size and history of deworming. Altitude was categorized in to (A) below 3000, (B) 3000-6000 and (C) above 6000 feet. Two species Sheep and Goats were divided into 3 age groups (A) 4 year. Two seasons Autumn and Spring along with flock Size a$?30 and >30 animals were analyzed for association with disease.

Collection and analysis of fecal samples: Fecal samples were collected directly from the rectum of each sheep and goat using finger covered with disposable glove. After collection, the fecal samples were transferred to separate self-sealing polythene bags, labeled and transported to the Parasitology laboratory, Faculty of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, University of the Poonch Rawalakot and Department of Zoology, Mirpur University of Science and Technology Mirpur, AJK. The fecal samples were stored at 4AdegC till further analysis within 24 hours. The samples were analyzed using centrifugal flotation and sedimentation techniques while egg per gram (EPG) count was performed by McMaster technique (Foreyt 2001).

Statistical analysis: The GIS map of the study area was prepared using Quantum GIS 2.20 version. For test of significance Chi square analysis was used on EpiInfoTM 7 (Centers for Disease Control, Atlanta, GA, USA).The strength of association of all the epidemiological factors with Fasciolosis in sheep and goats was estimated through odds ratio (OR) and the corresponding 95% confidence intervals. Significant epidemiological factors were further processed through Generalized Linear Model with binomial distribution in R program (R core team, 2014) and the coefficient of determination R2 was calculated. The model selection was made through the evaluation of AIC value and model with lowest AIC value was selected. P-value less than 0.05 was taken as significant. Mean along with standard error was calculated in Microsoft excel (2007). Factorial Design was used in R program (R core team, 2014) to compare mean egg per gram of feces with reference to species, altitude and season.

RESULTS

Prevalence: The overall prevalence of Fasciolosis in small ruminants was 17.88%. Prevalence of Fasciolosis in sheep and goats was 26.49% and 9.90%, respectively. Statistical analysis revealed that prevalence of the disease in sheep was significantly higher (P<0.05) compared to goats. Similarly, the OR value indicated that sheep were 3.27 times more prone to Fasciolosis than goats (Table 2).The prevalence of the disease was 15.09%, 25.00% and 15.74% at altitudes 6000ft, respectively. Statistical analysis showed that prevalence of Fasciolosis in sheep and goats was significantly higher (P<0.05) at an altitude of 3000-6000ft. Likewise, the OR values demonstrated that sheep and goats at altitude of 3000-6000ft have 1.84 times more chance to acquire infection than at other altitudes. The prevalence of disease in autumn (August-October) and spring (March-May) were 21.77% and 13.93%, respectively.

Statistical analysis revealed that prevalence was significantly higher (P0.05) by Chi-square analysis. The prevalence of the disease in the age group below 1 year was 4.40%, for 1-4 years was 17.73% and 4 years was 36.18%. Chi-square values showed significant difference (P<0.05) in all age groups.

It was calculated that deworming ratio in AJK was 29.98%. 76 samples out of 1398 (5.43%) were found positive for Fasciolosis, which revealed that animals even after deworming may acquire infection. The prevalence in animals with no recent history of deworming was recorded 23.22%. The data revealed a significant difference (P<0.05) with the fact that chances of infection were more in animals that do not have an anthelmintic dose. The data showed 15.37% disease in small as compared to 18.72% in large flocks. Chi-square analysis showed a significant difference (P<0.05) in the prevalence of the disease in two flock sizes.

Generalized Linear Model: The deworming appeared to be the most significant factor in the model contributing maximum variations in disease with highest Odds followed by age groups, species, season, altitude, flock size and gender. The risk factors for Fasciolosis in sheep and goats are lack of practice of deworming, age group greater than 4 years, species sheep, autumn season, altitude between 3000-6000 and flock size greater than 30 animals.

Intensity of Fasciolosis: Egg per Gram (EPG) of feces from all positive samples of sheep and goats (n=830) were calculated and results analyzed. The intensity of the disease was categorized as low having EPG counts up to 200; moderate up to 300; and heavy greater than 300 eggs (Table 4). The EPG ranged 50 to 650 eggs. Goats showed higher values of heavy intensity of the disease as compared to sheep. Altitude 3000-6000 feet revealed 21.10% of infected animals having heavy infection followed by 14.46% at altitude below 3000 and 7.46% at above 6000 feet. Seasonal data revealed 26.95% heavy intensity in autumn and 13.35% in spring. The effect of season on EPG showed a higher mean values for sheep (191.49+-4.92) and goats (219.72+-8.13) in autumn compared to 158.04+-5.28 and 180.61+-8.78 in spring (Table 5). In both the seasons mean EPG for goats were found higher than sheep. The difference at three different altitudes (Table 6) was analyzed in both species.

The data showed mean values for sheep 174.04+-6.03, 191.87+-6.07 and 168.33+-7.29 at altitude below 3000, 3000-6000 and above 6000 feet respectively. The mean values for goats were 232.22+-9.91, 194.95+-9.32 and 170.59+-12.22. The data revealed higher mean values for goats as compared to sheep at all three altitudes. The mean values of EPG for goats at an altitude below 3000 feet were found higher as compared to higher altitudes. Conversely, mean values for sheep were higher at the altitude of 3000-6000 feet.

The intensity of infection was analyzed through Factorial analysis for difference in species, altitude and season (Table 7). The difference was found significantly variable in sheep and goats. Goats revealed significantly higher (P<0.05) number of eggs per gram. Similarly the mean EPG at different altitudes was also found significantly different (P<0.05). The effect of season was found significant (P<0.05). The mean values of EPG in autumn season were found higher than spring in both the species of animals. The interaction between species of animal and altitude was found significant (P<0.05).

Table 1. Sample size from different Villages/towns of each District of Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

###Altitude (feet) above###Samples collected

###District###Town

###sea level###(n)

###Jatlan###1377###613

###Mirpur###Islamgarh###1503###621

###Dadyal###1503###919

###Hajeera###3168###510

###Poonch###Khaigala###5500###325

###Paniola###5200###397

###Sharda###6499###478

###Neelam###Machal###7350###403

###Ghamoot###7800###396

Table 2. Prevalence and associated risk factors of Fasciolosis in Small Ruminants in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.

###Number of###Number of Samples###Prevalence###OR

Variable###X2 value###P-Value

###Samples examined###Positive###(%)###value

Species

Sheep###2242###594###26.49

###3.27###217.71###p0.05,

Female###2941###547###18.59

Age

<1 Year###1158###051###4.40###0.16###190###p0.05,

>4 Years###876###317###36.18###3.6###245.86###p<0.05

Altitude

<3000###2153###325###15.09###0.70###21.26###p<0.05

3000-6000###1232###308###25.00###1.84###57.64###p6000###1277###201###15.74###0.81###5.53###p<0.05,

Season

Autumn###2351###512###21.77

###1.72###48.83###p<0.05

Spring###2311###322###13.93

Flock size

30 animals###1158###178###15.37

###0.78###6.65###p30 animals###3504###656###18.72

Deworming history

Yes###1398###76###5.43

###0.19###210###p4 years###1.41111###0.10522###13.411***

Age group<1 year###-1.55169###0.15814###-9.812***

Season###-1.07446###0.09229###-11.642***

Altitude <3000 ft###0.26115###0.11242###2.323*

Altitude 3000-6000 ft###0.81551###0.11559###7.055***

Deworming###2.43280###0.14384###16.913***

Flock Size###0.38318###0.11020###3.477***

Table 4. Intensity of Infection with Fasciolosis in Sheep and Goats in AJK

###Total number###Number of###Intensity

Variables###categories

###of samples###positive samples###Low###Moderate###Heavy

###Sheep###2242###594###348###132###114

Species

###Goats###2420###240###115###58###67

###6000###1277###201###132###54###15

###Autumn###2351###512###249###125###138

Season

###Spring###2311###322###214###65###43

Table 5. Seasonal Intensity of Infection with Fasciolosis in Sheep and Goats in AJK

Species###Season###Total Samples Examined###Total Positive Samples###Mean EPG+-SE

###Autumn###1169###370###191.49+-4.92

Sheep

###Spring###1073###224###158.04+-5.28

###Autumn###1182###142###219.72+-8.13

Goats

###Spring###1238###98###180.61+-8.78

Table 6. Intensity of Infection with Fasciolosis in Sheep and Goats at different altitudes of Azad Jammu and Kashmir

Species###Altitude (ft)###Number of samples examined###Number of Sample positive###EPG+-SE

###6000###609###150###168.33+-7.29

###6000###668###51###170.59+-12.22

Table 7. Factorial analysis of Intensity of Infection with Fasciolosis in Sheep and Goats in Azad Jammu and Kashmir

Source of Variation###Degree of Freedom###Sum of Square###Mean Square###F-value

Species###1###105794###105794###13.30***

Altitude###2###70729###35364###4.45**

Season###1###225865###225865###28.41***

Species*altitude###2###111542###55771###7.01***

Species*season###1###387###387###0.049ns

Altitude*Season###2###11347###5673###0.71ns

Species*altitude*season###2###44286###22193###2.79ns

Residuals###822###6534714###7950

DISCUSSION

The data revealed an overall prevalence of 17.88% in both species of animals, 26.49% in sheep and 9.91% in goats. Similar results in goats were reported by Ijaz et al. (2008) and in sheep Njoku and Okoli, (2011). These results vary from the findings of Anjum et al. 2014 where 33.33% prevalence was reported in sheep and goats. These results correlate with the findings of the present study in case of sheep, however, are different to that of goats and this difference might be attributed to the different environment and management conditions. In the present study the difference in prevalence of the disease in sheep and goat was due to grazing habits of sheep. Mir et al. (2013) reported 5.28% disease in goats from Jammu area of Jammu and Kashmir, India. Pandit et al. (1989) reported 30% prevalence in sheep from the same area of Jammu and Kashmir. Their results are similar to the present investigations.

Tasawar et al. (2007) reported 28.75% prevalence of Fasciola (F.) hepatica in goats which is much higher than the present study. Similarly in a report from Kashmir, India Sharma et al. (1989) reported 51.30% infection rate in sheep and 14.80% in goats. The differences in prevalence rates of these findings might be due to environmental factors and the geographic locations. The environmental factors and management have strong relationship with liver fluke and its intermediate host population. Mas-Coma et al. (2001) has reported an important epidemiological characteristic of this disease to be the link of endemic areas to high altitudes. These researchers have established that highest prevalence of Fasciolosis occurred at altitudes 3800-4100m. Such differences of variation of the disease pattern appear to favor transmission and adaptation to high altitudes. Data are lacking regarding epidemiological reports of Fasciolosis from high altitudes of Pakistan.

This is the first study of its kind from a different geographic location of the country which elaborates the extent of the disease from different climates of mountainous region. The overall prevalence rate in both species was 15.09% at altitude below 3000 feet, 25.00% at altitude 3000-6000 and 15.74% at altitude above 6000 feet. The highest prevalence was recorded at altitude between 3000-6000. The altitude between 3000-6000 showed significantly higher (P0.05) in adult cattle as compared to young ones. Similar results have also been reported from Ethiopia Gebreyohannes et al. (2013), where they found 37.6% prevalence in sheep less than 1 year and 44.4% greater than 1 year. In the present study the history of deworming in last month was taken with each sample. It was calculated that deworming ratio in Azad Jammu and Kashmir is 29.98%.

The data showed a positive impact of deworming for the control of Fasciolosis under natural grazing. Even though it was not possible to collect information regarding particular group of anthelmintic drugs however, it was noted that regular deworming was necessary to control infection. Infection rates even after deworming were 5.43% which might be due to inadequate dose, improper group of anthelmintic or development of resistance against anthelmintics. Maingi et al. (2002) reported a marked reduction in infection with F. hepatica in ewes and lambs on posture after medication with dewormer in highlands of Kenya. The effect of flock size on prevalence rate was also assessed in the present study which revealed a significantly higher infection rate 18.72% (P<0.05) in large herd size as compared to small 15.37%. These results were consistent with the findings of Abebaw et al. (2012).

In a study from Bangladesh Sangma et al. (2012) found 7.6% prevalence of Fasciolosis in small flocks as compared to 12.7% in large and a significantly higher prevalence of helminthiasis was noted in large size flocks of sheep. This increase in rate of infection seems to be directly associated with number of animals kept under one roof as the number of animals increases, the animal have to travel long distances to explore new grazing areas or mixed with other flocks and share grazing lands and water ponds where they disseminate infection.

Intensity of Fasciolosis: The intensity of the disease was found higher in goats as compared to sheep in the study area. Factorial analyses of the data showed a significant difference (P<0.05) in mean EPG of the two species. These results were found in agreement with Sangma et al. (2012) who reported mean EPG 162.5 in sheep ranging 100-300. Chowdhury et al. (1994) indicated 100-400 EPG in cattle of Bangladesh. Issia et al. (2009) in Argentina reported mean EPG 160 in sheep and 80 in goats. The effect of season on EPG showed a higher mean values in sheep (191.49) and goats (219.72) in autumn as compared to 158.04 and 180.61 in spring. Factorial analysis showed significant difference (p<0.05) in intensity to be higher in autumn. The reason for higher intensity during autumn is due to the peak season of the emergence of the snail intermediate host in AJK in summer when the temperature, humidity and rain fall favors multiplication of Fasciola spp.

New infections take place during rainy season and after completion of the life cycle new episode of egg laying starts in autumn. These findings were found similar to Qureshi et al. (2012) who estimated 14.2 +- 4.47 mean EPG count in spring in buffaloes from Punjab as compared to 433 +- 73.2 during autumn. Similar results were also reported by Chowdhury et al. (1994). The data revealed mean EPG 174.04 at altitude below 3000, 191.87 at altitude 3000-6000 and 168.33 above 6000 feet for sheep. Higher EPG values were found for goat, 232.22, 194.95 and 170.59 at three altitudes respectively. Factorial analysis showed significant difference in intensity of disease amongst altitudes. Overall intensity in both species was found higher due to heavy infection percentage 21.10% at altitude 3000-6000. These results were similar as prevalence percentage was also highest at the same altitude.

It is obvious from these findings that intensity of the disease increases with rate of prevalence as new and less immune animals were exposed to infection. These results also indicate summer infection of animals when climatic factors favor the disease incidence. These results clearly indicate that one of the important risk factor for Fasciolosis was altitude 3000-6000 feet.

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