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Front. Vet. Sci. | doi: 10.3389/fvets.2019.00270

Heartworm Disease (Dirofilaria immitis) in Two Roaming Dogs from the Urban Area of Castel Volturno, Southern Italy

 Mario Santoro1*, Gianluca Miletti1, Lucia Vangone1, Luisa Spadari1, Stefano Reccia2 and Giovanna Fusco1
  • 1Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno, Italy
  • 2Azienda Sanitaria Locale Alessandria, Italy

The zoonotic filarioid nematode Dirofilaria immitis is transmitted by bloodsucking mosquitoes and causes heartworm disease in dogs and wild canines. In the last decade D. immitis has spread in southern Europe including Italy. Few autochthonous foci of infection have been reported in previously non-endemic areas of southern Italy based only on the identification of microfilariae, antigen and serological tests and polymerase chain reaction assay from both the blood of dogs and mosquito vectors with no description of cases of heartworm disease in both domestic and wild canines. Here we report for first on two cases of heartworm disease found at post-mortem examination in two roaming dogs from the urban area of Castel Volturno in Campania region of southern Italy. Immunological analyses of 11 roaming dogs from the same pack of those two submitted for necropsy, and available necropsy data from the dogs recovered from the Campania region along the past 10 years were both negative for D. immitis infection. Although rare in southern Italy, these two cases are noteworthy because D. immitis may cause serious human infection. We highlight the need to identify the mosquito vectors of heartworm disease in this area using sensitive molecular assay for D. immitis DNA for predicting and controlling the spread of infection. We strongly recommend the control and systematic treatment of the domestic and roaming dogs that could constitute the most important infection reservoir.

Keywords: Heartworm disease, Vector-borne disease, Filarioid nematode, Zoonotic parasite, Dirofilariosis

Received: 16 May 2019; Accepted: 05 Aug 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Santoro, Miletti, Vangone, Spadari, Reccia and Fusco. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Mario Santoro, Istituto Zooprofilattico Sperimentale del Mezzogiorno, Portici, Italy, marisant@libero.it