Strategies to address detrimental effect of ticks on livestock and farmers discussed at the 2nd Meeting of the "ResisT" project

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Ticks were the topic of a 3 days meeting of the Ticks and Tick Borne Disease Working Group (TTBDWG) held at the Blue Horizon Hotel, Christ Church, Barbados November 17-20, 2014. Sponsored by CIRAD (ResisT* and Epigenesis* projects) and CaribVET, Chief Veterinary Officers, epidemiologists, animal health officials, experts and project managers from the Caribbean met to discuss the challenges facing livestock farmers and veterinarians due to ticks and the diseases that they transmit to livestock.

TBDWG Group picture, Barbados

The Bont tick, Amblyomma variegatum, has recently re-emerged in Barbados and the USVI while continuing to populate several Caribbean islands. Heartwater and dermatophilosis are diseases carried by the Bont tick which can sicken and even kill livestock.

The common Cattle tick, Rhipicephalus (Boophilus) microplus, which is found equally throughout the region, also transmits diseases in livestock (Anaplasmosis and babesiosis) which can severely affect production.

The TTBDWG met to discuss strategies to address the detrimental effect of ticks on livestock and farmers. Surveillance of diseases - heartwater, anaplasmosis and babesiosis - will begin early next year and will give each participating country an accurate picture of the extent of this health problem.

Controlling the tick population in a sustainable and affordable manner is a major challenge for the agriculture sector. The cost of the available chemical products makes providing consistent and effective tick control difficult for both livestock producers and government agencies. The TTBDWG is investigating reports of acaracide resistance in certain areas and will be coordinating testing of tick populations to identify problems. Tick vaccines are currently being tested and will be a possible tick control method in the future. TTBDWG will be preparing educational fact sheets for farmers and animal health officials on the subject of tick resistance and tick control strategies.

The importance of effective collection and utilization of data was a major topic for the TTBDWG. The lack of a uniform data system within each island and across the region was identified and was attributed to lack of staffing and resources. This will be a major focus for future collaborations of the TTBDWG with farmers, government agencies and animal officials. A project to set up a GIS database/platform is ongoing, funded by the Epigenesis Project.

Finally, a field visit was organized by the Veterinary Services of Barbados to show where TBT was first found on the island, in the 1990's, explain how TBT surveillance is conducted in the infested and uninfested area. The group also visited the site where TBT was recently found after five years of absence. 

The TTBDWG will meet again in 2015 for a final meeting of the "ResisT" project to be jointly organized with the 5th meeting of the T&TBDWG of CaribVET.

By Dr. Bethany Bradford, Director of Agriculture, US Virgin Islands, Co-Chair of CaribVET.

* ResisT project is funded by the Fond de Coopéation Régional of Guadeloupe and Martinique (2013-2015).

Epigenesis project is funded by EU on the Regpot Programme, 7th Framework Programme (2013-2016), coordinated by CIRAD Guadeloupe.

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