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Hotspot sheep scab management: A community‐based regional approach in England

Published: 2024


  • Stewart T. G. Burgess

  • Lesley Stubbings

  • Richard Wall

Is Part of:

Vet Record, e4090



Ovine psoroptic mange (sheep scab), caused by an infestation of the mite Psoroptes ovis, leads to clinical disease, economic loss and severely compromised animal welfare. Here, a community‐based approach to the management of scab in three high‐risk areas of England is described.


For each of the 254 farms included in the study, an initial survey of their clinical sheep scab history was followed up by a blood test (ELISA) to detect the presence of antibodies to P. ovis. This facilitated the coordination of treatment across groups of farms in each region. Blood testing was then repeated at the end of the treatment programme.


On the first blood test in 2021/2022, 25.6% (±5.5%) of the flocks were positive for sheep scab. On the second test in 2022/2023, 9% (±3.94%) of the flocks tested were positive, showing a highly statistically significant reduction in prevalence overall, but with strong regional variation.Limitationsgenerating an understanding of the flock‐level nature of the blood test and confidence in its detection of scab where clinical signs were not apparent provided ongoing challenges.


The programme demonstrated that a focused community‐based approach can be used to significantly reduce the prevalence of sheep scab in high‐risk areas of England. The use of the blood test on all farms allowed the identification of subclinical sheep scab. The programme provides an effective model for sheep scab management on a national scale.

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