Large-scale survey for canine vector-borne parasites in free-ranging dogs and foxes from six diverse bioclimatic regions of Chile.
Chile is a large country with a marked range of climate conditions that make it an ideal scenario for the study of vector-borne parasites (VBPs); however, knowledge about their distribution is limited to a few confined areas of this country. The presence of Hepatozoon spp., piroplasmids, Leishmania spp. and filarioids was investigated through molecular and serological methods in blood and serum samples of 764 free-ranging rural dogs, 154 Andean foxes (Lycalopex culpaeus), and 91 South American grey foxes (Lycalopex griseus) from six bioclimatic regions across Chile. Hepatozoon spp. DNA was exclusively detected in foxes (43% prevalence), including sequences closely related to Hepatozoon felis (24.1%; only Andean foxes), Hepatozoon americanum (16.2%; only grey foxes), and Hepatozoon canis (1.25%; in one grey fox). Risk factor assessment identified a higher probability of Hepatozoon infection in juvenile foxes. DNA of piroplasmids was detected in 0.7% of dogs (Babesia vogeli) but in no fox, whilst antibodies against Babesia sp. were detected in 24% of the dogs and 25% of the foxes, suggesting a wider circulation of canine piroplasmids than previously believed. A positive association between the presence of antibodies against Babesia and high Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato burden was observed in dogs. Leishmania spp. DNA and antibodies were detected in 0.8% and 4.4% of the dogs, respectively. Acanthocheilonema reconditum was the only blood nematode detected (1.5% of the dogs and no fox). Differences in prevalence among bioregions were observed for some of the VBPs. These results expand our knowledge about the occurrence of vector-borne parasites in Chile, some of which are firstly reported herein. This information will facilitate the diagnosis of vector-borne diseases in domestic dogs and improve the control measures for both domestic and wild canids.