No ‘Fluke’ as Tyndall nukes parasites with innovative toolkit

Alan O'Riordan, Tyndall pictured with Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Marine & Food
Alan O'Riordan, Tyndall pictured with Simon Coveney, Minister for Agriculture, Marine & Food
Leading European research centre to develop new liver fluke test for farmers

Tyndall National Institute has today announced the development of a new diagnostic toolkit - Flukeless - to help in the fight against liver fluke in cattle and sheep. 

The new toolkit will combine state-of-the-art diagnostic devices, tracking systems and immunity and DNA testing to tackle the common liver fluke parasite – a scourge that costs Irish farmers €25million annually, and represents a €90million annual cost to the Irish food industry. 

Developed for use by farmers, vets and policy analysts, Flukeless will provide a blueprint for new, on-farm parasite control, allowing farmers to rapidly intervene and correct parasite-related animal health issues such as reduced live-weight gain, calving rates and milk yield.

Led by Dr Alan O’Riordan, Principal Investigator at Tyndall National Institute, Flukeless will be developed in collaboration with Teagasc, University College Dublin, Zoetis, The Enfer Group and the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation. The project recently received a Research grant of €878,883 under the Government’s Research Stimulus Fund (RSF), which aims to support sustainable and competitive agricultural production practices and policies, and contributes to building and maintaining a knowledge economy and research capability in the agriculture sector.

Speaking about Flukeless, Dr O’Riordan said “The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) estimates that approximately 20% of animal production is lost due to unhealthy animals. At a time when farmers are increasing numbers of livestock in line with Food Harvest 2020 goals, it is crucial to maintain animal health and welfare to achieve maximum farm profitability. With Flukeless, we believe that we have a pioneering, multidimensional package including on-farm fluke diagnostics, the results of which will be uploaded to geographical information system for disease mapping and also feed into breeding programmes.  This approach has broad application and will save significant time, energy and money”.

The project is expected to last for four years with the full system available to farmers within the next five years.


For more information, please contact:
Julie Dorel, Tyndall National Institute, T: 0871309322, E:

About Tyndall National Institute
Established with a mission to support industry and academia in driving research to market, Tyndall National Institute is one of Europe’s leading research centres in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) research and development and the largest facility of its type in Ireland. Established in 2004 as a successor to the National Microelectronics Research Centre (NMRC founded in 1982) at University College Cork, the Institute employs over 460 researchers, engineers and support staff, with a full-time graduate cohort of 135 students generating over 200 peer-reviewed publications each year. 

With a network of 200 industry partners and customers worldwide, Tyndall generates around €30M income each year, 85% from competitively won contracts nationally and internationally. Tyndall is also a lead partner in European research partnerships in its core areas of ICT, communications, energy, health and the environment worth €44M, including €6M accruing to industry in Ireland (from Framework 7). Hosting the only full CMOS (metal oxide semiconductor) integrated circuit construction, Micro Electronic Mechanical systems (MEMS) and III-V Wafer Semiconductor fabrication facilities and services in Ireland, Tyndall is capable of prototyping new product opportunities for its target industries – electronics, medical devices, energy and communication. Tyndall is a globally leading Institute in its four core research areas of Photonics, Microsystems, Micro/Nanoelectronics and Theory, Modeling and Design. Tyndall is the lead institution for the Science Foundation Ireland funded Irish Photonics Integration Centre (IPIC)

About liver fluke
Liver fluke disease or fasciolosis is a parasitic disease of grazing animals caused by a flat worm (Fasciola hepatica) and is economically important in cattle, sheep and goats.

Liver fluke disease causes annual losses estimated to be around €2.5 billion to livestock and food industries worldwide, and is estimated to cost at least €90M to the Irish industry. Economic losses caused by liver fluke are mainly associated with a decrease in meat and milk production. Depending on the degree of infection, liver fluke may cause a reduced meat production of up to 20% in cattle and up to 30% in sheep, and a reduction in milk production of up to 8% in cows. Fertility can suffer and beef cattle affected by fluke may take an extra 80 days to reach market weights. Losses also occur due to the number of livers condemned in meat plants as up to 50% of livers may be condemned.

Severe infection may cause death due to anaemia in young animals, particularly in lambs. Liver fluke can occasionally result in sudden death by triggering certain clostridial diseases of cattle. More recently, evidence has emerged that liver fluke infection and may also exacerbate other infectious diseases such as salmonellosis and Tuberculosis. The prevalence of liver fluke infection has increased up to 12-fold in certain EU Member States (including Ireland) during recent years.

Animals are infected by ingesting encapsulated larvae (metacercariae) on contaminated grass. Typically, individual farms will have wet “flukey areas” that should not be used or grazed at times of the year when metacercariae are likely to be present, i.e. late summer to winter (depending on climatic conditions). However, cattle and sheep often graze on such areas. Therefore, it cannot be assumed that liver fluke infection is absent from any area of Ireland.

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