Date of this Version
Parasites and Vectors (2013) 6: 288
Dirofilarioses are widespread diseases caused by filarioid nematodes (superfamily Filarioidea) of the genus Dirofilaria, which are transmitted by a plethora of mosquito species. The principal agent of canine dirofilariosis in the Americas is Dirofilaria immitis, which may also occasionally infest humans, resulting in pulmonary nodules that may be confounded with malignant lung tumours. Because human cases of dirofilariosis by D. immitis are relatively frequent in the Americas and rare in Europe and other eastern countries, where Dirofilaria repens is the main causative agent, the existence of a more virulent strain of D. immitis in the Americas has been speculated. Recently, a case of human ocular infestation by Dirofilaria sp. was diagnosed in Pará State, northern Brazil, where canine heartworm dirofilariosis is endemic. The nematode was shown to be morphologically and phylogenetically related to D. immitis but it was genetically distinct from reference sequences, including those of D. immitis infesting dogs in the same geographical area. This finding raised questions regarding the aetiology of human dirofilariosis in the Americas, since information on the genetic makeup of filarioids infesting dogs and humans is meagre. Further studies would be needed to better characterize filarioids infesting dogs, wild animals, and humans in the Americas and to assess the existence of a more virulent D. immitis strain in this continent. Finally, the competence of different culicid species/strains from Europe and the Americas as vectors of Dirofilaria species should be investigated. Such studies would help us to understand possible variations in transmission patterns and even to predict possible scenarios that may emerge in the future, with the introduction of non-endemic Dirofilaria species/strains in free areas through importation of infested animals, vectors, or both.