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SMALL ruminants are the intermediate host of several canine tapeworm species, including Taenia ovis. In sheep, the larval stages of this cestode (previously called Cysticercus ovis) manifest as cystic lesions. T ovis infection in sheep has been reported to be endemic in parts of Great Britain (Jones and Walters 1992, Green and others 1995), but up-to-date epidemiological data are scarce. The English sheep industry suffers annual economic losses of over £7 million due to the presence of T ovis cysts and subsequent condemnation of the carcases at the abattoir (English Beef and Lamb Executive [EBLEX] 2011).
The adult stage of T ovis is found in the intestine of canids, particularly dogs, foxes and wolves. Sheep become infected with eggs on contaminated pastures, and the larval stages develop in skeletal and heart muscle. The parasitic cycle is completed when the definitive host ingests viable cysts. This short communication describes an extended severe outbreak of cysticercosis in a large sheep flock in Somerset, south-west England.
In 2009, 7 per cent (600 of 9000) of the slaughtered sheep from a farm were rejected at abattoir inspection due to cysticercosis. In April 2010, lesions from six hearts of condemned carcases were analysed morphologically (Fig 1) and by a Taenia-specific PCR followed by sequence analysis (Trachsel and others 2007), resulting in the diagnosis of T ovis infection.