Gastrointestinal nematodes are important parasites of livestock and wildlife worldwide, causing mortality and morbidity, regulating host populations and threatening food security through reduced productivity of ruminant livestock. A significant part of the life-cycle of most GINs is completed outside of the host. GINs are therefore susceptible to changes in climate, and evidence of climate-driven changes in the phenology of GINs and the seasonal incidence of disease already exists. A modelling framework, GLOWORM-FL was developed to predict changes in the seasonal dynamics of the free-living stages of trichostrongylid GINs on pasture as a first step towards evaluating potential mitigation strategies. The general model framework was parameterised and validated for three GIN species that infect a range of ruminants worldwide: Haemonchus contortus, Teladorsagia circumcincta and Ostertagia ostertagi. The model builds significantly on previous models of GIN population dynamics by incorporating the behaviour of nematodes in response to climate variability, facilitated by recent advances in our understanding of the ecology of GINs. Simulations using historical and predicted future climatic data for a temperate region reveal the potential for an increase in annual infection pressure of H. contortus and T. circumcincta in small ruminants as increasing temperatures accelerate development and remove constraints on the development of H. contortus during the winter months. In contrast, a significant decrease in annual infection pressure is predicted for O. ostertagi in cattle due to accelerated development being offset by rapid mortality at higher temperatures. A similar trade-off is predicted during the summer months for H. contortus and T. circumcincta resulting in complex seasonal dynamics of the availability of infective stages on pasture. These changes could have significant impacts on the seasonal incidence and pathology of infection by GINs. GLOWORM-FL therefore provides an important tool to predict the seasonal risk of transmission of GINs and will aid in the design of climate-driven, risk-based GIN control strategies.
- Climate change, Gastrointestinal nematode, Nematode behaviour, Parasite ecology, Population dynamics, Ruminant