28 June 2002

Rising ringworm cases just tip of the iceberg?

REPORTS suggest that ringworm is on the increase in UK sheep flocks, with 19 cases investigated by the Vet Lab Agency in 1999 and 28 in 2000.

But this may only be the tip of the iceberg. Many cases may be diagnosed on farm or by vets without reporting to VLA, says Mike Sharp senior investigation officer at Vet Lab Agency, Luddington.

"Numbers of cases in sheep have always been small, but reports have increased in recent years."

While the condition is not of serious economic consequence to most flocks, it has led to losses for a number of pedigree breeders who have been unable to sell stock due to infection.

Cases are usually associated with the bacteria Trichophyton verrucsum and are most commonly seen on the woolless parts of the animal. Lesions are often noticed on animals heads and are generally only seen on the body when wool is short, says Mr Sharp.

However, a report in Vet Record details a case in Scotland where lesions were seen over the wool covered parts of sheeps bodies, with matted wool covering the lesions. But no lesions were present on the head or limbs of sheep in this flock.

The condition has little effect on a flocks productivity and is generally seen when sheep are housed or stocked tightly.

"There are no licensed products for the treatment of ringworm in sheep, but sunlight inhibits infections and stock with lesions should be isolated from the rest of the flock," says independent sheep vet Chris Lewis.

Clean buildings where affected stock have been present thoroughly and avoid transfer of ringworm between animals when handling, such as shearing. Also wear rubber gloves when handling infected or suspect stock, advises Mr Sharp. &#42