AI breakthrough to detect animal infection

Team from Aberystwyth University and disease technology firm Techion develops and tests new machine learning tools that automatically identify parasites from camera images.

Scientists have announced a breakthrough in artificial intelligence that can quickly identify parasites infecting animals.

A team from Aberystwyth University, working with disease technology firm Techion, has developed and tested machine learning tools that can automatically identify parasites using camera images.

It is hoped the discovery could eventually help farmers diagnose infections quicker and speed up any necessary treatments.

High magnification

The technique uses a device that captures images from processed faeces at high magnification and can mean results are received within a day.

Liver and rumen flukes, both of which can be a challenge in the UK, are among the parasites that can be detected using the breakthrough technique.

‘Significant milestone’

Hefin Williams, senior lecturer in agricultural environment at Aberystwyth University, said: “We believe that this project is a significant milestone in transforming and modernising the diagnosis and control of these infections. The algorithms developed as part of this project should make diagnosis more accessible and more effective. That means better veterinary health outcomes and more sustainable agricultural businesses.

“The new technique may make it possible to diagnose these infections on farms, or even pen-side, and it does not need any expensive materials to perform. The current methods are labour intensive, require specialised skills and are time consuming. This limits their utility and their effectiveness to guide treatments as farmers often need ‘same day’ diagnosis to allow them to correctly treat a group of animals.

“This new method will be paramount as effective control of liver fluke is forecast to be more challenging in the future, with increased risk of infections because of climate change and the spread of fluke anthelmintic resistance in the UK.”


Eurion Thomas from Techion UK added: “We already have good market reach in the animal health industry, with customers using our FECPAKG2 system in vet clinics, retail stores, and on farm to detect parasitic nematode infection quickly and accurately.

“The commercial release of our fluke egg detection system later this year will be a novel and significant expansion of our system capability, and something our customers have long been asking for.

“This successful collaboration has allowed us to utilise the expertise within Aberystwyth University to help us develop a quick, affordable and reliable test that the industry can use to meet the growing needs of evidence-based medication of livestock.”

The project is part-funded by the Welsh Government and the Wales Data Nation Accelerator.

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