CATTLE AND sheep farmers have been warned that rafoxanide is not an appropriate alternative to closantel when treating liver fluke.

The warning follows reports of rafoxanide products being imported from the Republic of Ireland in the belief that they will be effective against fluke that has resistance to triclabendazole treatments. The SCOPS and COWS initiatives – both dedicated to informing the livestock industry about treatment-resistant parasite issues – have issued a joint statement stressing that imported rafoxanide is not a solution.

Speaking on behalf of SCOPS, Lesley Stubbings said: “Choice of treatment is extremely important, and SCOPS and COWS are committed to providing clear advice on the options available. As part of this commitment, we are aware there has been misunderstanding with respect to two veterinary medicines that are not currently authorised in the UK, but which have been imported from the Republic of Ireland under a Special Import Certificate from the Veterinary Medicines Directorate, for use on some UK farms.

“These veterinary medicines both contain the active substance rafoxanide, and it is apparent there is significant confusion around rafoxanide, especially with respect to using it as an alternative to closantel on farms where triclabendazole resistance is proven. SCOPS and COWS have therefore updated their respective websites to provide clear information to sheep and cattle farmers,” she explained.

The SCOPS-COWS statement makes it clear that rafoxanide is neither a new flukicide or a different class to closantel and, moreover, that there was evidence of cross-resistance between rafoxanide and closantel from both field and laboratory studies.

Speaking on behalf of COWS, Professor Diana Williams added: “This is extremely important because it means there is no evidence to suggest using closantel and rafoxanide interchangeably/on a rotational basis will successfully reduce the selection pressure for resistance to closantel. Indeed, there is a serious risk that such use of rafoxanide will hasten the development of resistance to closantel.

“It would be fantastic for both sheep and cattle farmers if rafoxanide was a new active against fluke, and we’d be shouting about it loud and clear if it was. Unfortunately that is not the case and we do not want people working in the livestock industry to mistakenly think the two products containing rafoxanide are ‘silver bullets’, when in fact their overuse could do more harm than good.”

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