Sheep scab

Managing sheep scab: mapping risk foci for targeted control

University of Bristol

Researchers: Richard Wall and Hannah Rose

Funder: NERC; FERA

Methods of mapping and controling sheep mange are being looked at in a University of Bristol NERC and FERA funded project.

Mange, caused by parasitic mites, is a damaging, distressing and difficult to control condition, seen in many types of domestic animal, particularly sheep and cattle.

Of particular consequence is the disease known as ‘sheep scab’, caused by Psoroptes mites which are found on the moist skin at the edge of a lesion; mange causes severe welfare problems and death if untreated.
Sheep scab has been widely prevalent and economically important in Europe for many hundreds of years, but remains a major animal welfare, husbandry and economic problem today.

The research at the University of Bristol has shown that localised foci of persistent disease exist on particular farms, largely in upland farming systems, which act as reservoirs of infection.

One approach to improved control is to target these high-risk areas. To allow such an approach the research team are identifying and mapping risk foci in the UK using disease distribution models with environmental correlates. These models could allow management programmes to focus on high-risk areas, cost-effectively reducing the prevalence of scab in the UK.