Invasive Species Compendium

Detailed coverage of invasive species threatening livelihoods and the environment worldwide

Abstract

Dirofilaria immitis infection in the pelagie archipelago: the southernmost hyperendemic focus in Europe.

Abstract

Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens are mosquito-borne filarioids of zoonotic concern, which primarily cause canine heartworm disease (HWD) and subcutaneous dirofilariosis, respectively. The geographical distribution of these nematodes is constantly changing, due to many factors such as the colonization by new invasive mosquito species, the increased movement of animals and the absence of chemoprophylactic strategies in non-endemic regions. Although HWD has always been considered endemic in northern Italy, an increase in the prevalence of this disease has been recorded in the last decades in central and southern regions. We describe the southernmost hyperendemic European focus of heartworm disease in the Pelagie archipelagos. From June to November 2020, 157 dogs and 46 cats were sampled in Linosa and Lampedusa islands for the detection of Dirofilariaimmitis and Dirofilaria repens by modified Knott's, rapid antigen and molecular tests. Mosquitoes were collected using CDC light and BG sentinel-2 traps and aspirators, and tested for host blood meal and Dirofilaria spp. DNA. Out of 56 dogs in Linosa and 101 in Lampedusa, 33 (i.e. 58.9%) and 8 (i.e. 7.9%) were positive to D. immitis and D. repens, respectively. Three cats scored positive to D. immitis (i.e. 17.6%) in Linosa. Six mosquito species were identified, and the abdomen of a non-engorged Aedes albopictus was positive for D. immitis and human DNA. The results suggest that D. immitis infection could spread to new previously non-endemic territories in southern Europe, representing a real threat to animal and human health.