Using big data and text mining methods, scientists at the University of Liverpool are create a warning system for a devastating disease in pet rabbits and sheep.
Flystrike or myiasis is caused by larvae of Lucilia sericata feeding on the surface of the skin.
The disease causes severe tissue damage likely to secondary bacterial infections and may result in death of the animal.
Researchers from the Small Animal Veterinary Surveillance Network (SAVSNET) used electronic health records from over 40,000 rabbit consultations collected from veterinary practices across the UK.
Computers programmed to screen all clinical records for suspect cases of flystrike. These records identified some 300 cases of flystrike among these rabbits.
By analyzing the with flystrike, researchers identify the strong seasonal nature of the devastating disease, with most cases occurring between June and September.
As well as confirming the disease, the results warn owners to check their rabbits for signs of flystrike and treat.
Flystrike occurs from Spring to Autumn, when female flies lay their eggs on susceptible hosts such as rabbits and sheep.
The flies are particularly attracted to soiled fur and diseased skin around an animal’s back end that may be associated with diarrhoea, loose faeces or other discharges.
Owners should check their rabbits frequently to make sure they are healthy, clean and can groom themselves properly.