Common anti-parasite treatments found to devastate wildlife

Researchers at the University of Sussex are calling for alternatives to wormers and anti-ectoparasitic products used widely in cattle.
calendar icon 18 March 2020
clock icon 2 minute read

According to a publication in Eureka Alert and Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, researchers from the University of Sussex conducted a meta-analysis of the environmental impacts of anthelmintics (products used as de-wormers and anti-parasitics) used widely across the globe. Their research indicated that across all drug classes, the products have a devastating effect on key insect species like dung beetles that form the foundation of multiple food chains.

The study also found that some of the products actively attracted adult dung beetles before impairing the development of their larvae.

Professor Fiona Mathews, one of the key researchers on this project said, “When compared with controls, we found that dung samples from cattle treated with these products had about a third fewer dung beetle larvae.

“What’s particularly worrying is that the beetles actually seemed to be more attracted to treated dung but, because of the toxicity of the chemicals, their larvae have poor survival rates and face impaired development.

“Over time, this reduces the number of dung beetles which is trouble news for a range of bird and bat species – for which dung beetles are key prey items.

“Many of these species are already listed as vulnerable so any decline in prey availability is a serious concern.”

The study emphasised the negative impact that pour-on treatments – the most common form of application – have on dung beetle larvae. It also demonstrated that one of the most widely used products, Invermectin, is extremely toxic. These treatments are available for purchase in most EU countries without veterinary consultation.

The authors stress that more research is needed into the other treatment types and newer drugs to ascertain the exact impacts of each.

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