Are golden jackals (Canis aureus) definitive hosts for Angiostrongylus vasorum?
Angiostrongylosis caused by Angiostrongylus vasorum is an emerging disease in Europe. Recent reports have shown that, besides the red fox (Vulpes vulpes) recognized as the main definitive host and reservoir for the parasite, the role of the definitive host can be taken by a range of mammals. We considered that, due to the rapid large-scale expansion of its populations in Europe, the golden jackal (Canis aureus) could assume an important role in the epidemiology of the disease. The aim of the investigations was to explore the role of the golden jackal as the definitive host for A. vasorum. Sixty-three golden jackals, legally hunted in lowlands around the Danube River in Serbia recognized as the core area of the species' distribution in Europe, were subjected to patho-morphological and parasitological examination. The adult forms of A. vasorum were detected in the pulmonary arteries in six golden jackals with gross lesions manifested in the lungs. The finding of first stage larvae (L1) of A. vasorum in microscopic smears of the lung tissue altered by infection, which was consistent with the presence of adult parasites and manifestation of gross lesions in the lungs, confirms the successful reproduction of the parasite in the golden jackal. Migration of L1 from the blood vessels to the airways was confirmed by histopathology and, subsequently, their shedding was demonstrated by the Baermann method. The results support the hypothesis that the golden jackal acts as a suitable definitive host for A. vasorum. As a definitive host with a large-scale expansion of its populations in Europe, the golden jackal may be an important part of the parasite's host repertoire by spreading the parasite into previously non-endemic areas and by being an additional definitive host in endemic areas of vulpine angiostrongylosis.