Climate and Dirofilaria infection in Europe.
Climatic changes, together with an increase in the movement of cats and dogs across Europe, have caused an increase in the geographical range of several vector borne parasites like Dirofilaria, and in the risk of infection for animals and humans. The present paper reviews the effects of climate and other global drivers on Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens infections in Europe and the possible implications on the transmission and control of these mosquito-borne nematodes. In the last several years, growing degree day (GDD)-based forecast models, which use wide or local scale temperature data, have been developed to predict the occurrence and seasonality of Dirofilaria in different parts of the world. All these models are based on the fact that: there is a threshold of 14°C below which Dirofilaria development will not proceed; and there is a requirement of 130 GDD for larvae to reach infectivity and a maximum life expectancy of 30 days for a vector mosquito. The output of these models predicts that the summer temperatures (with peaks in July) are sufficient to facilitate extrinsic incubation of Dirofilaria even at high latitudes. The global warming projected by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change suggests that warm summers suitable for Dirofilaria transmission in Europe will be the rule in the future decades and if the actual trend of temperature increase continues, filarial infection should spread into previously infection-free areas. These factors not only favour incubation of Dirofilaria, but also impact on mosquito species. Recent findings have also demonstrated that Aedes albopictus is now considered to be an important, competent vector of Dirofilaria infections. This mosquito species could spread from southern to northern European countries in the near future, changing the epidemiological patterns of dirofilariosis both in humans and animals.