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Research comment
Sheep scab – the importance of accurate diagnosis
  1. Sian Mitchell and
  2. Amanda Carson
  1. APHA, Carmarthen Veterinary Investigation Centre, Johnstown, Carmarthen, UK
  2. APHA, Penrith Veterinary Investigation Centre, Calthwaite, Penrith, UK
  1. email: sian.mitchell{at}apha.gov.uk

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Sheep scab, caused by the Psoroptes ovis mite (Fig 1), is characterised by yellow scabs on the skin surface and is accompanied by restlessness, scratching, wool loss, bleeding wounds and loss of condition (Fig 2). However, the clinical signs can vary depending on the number of mites, the breed (and wool characteristics) of the host and the chronicity of the infestation.1

Fig 1: Psoroptes ovis, the sheep scab mite
Fig 2: A sheep showing typical signs of sheep scab

Sheep scab has been identified in all of the major sheep farming regions in Great Britain (Fig 3), and it has been identified as one of the most important diseases for the UK sheep farming industry due to its consequences for animal welfare and the serious economic losses it can inflict.

Fig 3: Map showing counties where sheep scab was diagnosed between 2009 and 2019. The shading represents a count of the diagnoses (darker shading = higher count)

Questionnaire surveys have shown that the highest risks of infestation are associated with common grazing, direct contact with neighbours’ sheep and neighbours’ flocks having sheep scab – with many farms repeatedly becoming infested.2 Sheep scab can also be introduced to a flock by newly purchased animals and sheep returning from grazing. Recently infested …

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