Detection of Dirofilaria immitis in a brown bear (Ursus arctos) in Greece

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Dirofilaria immitis (canine heartworm) is a filarial nematode found in the pulmonary circulation and the heart of susceptible hosts. It represents an important zoonotic vector-borne disease of domestic dogs and several wildlife species. Herein we report for the first time, the finding of Dirofilaria immitis worms in a brown bear killed in a vehicle collision in Northern Greece. The worms were morphologically identified; molecular examination, based on the analysis of the mitochondrial genes 12S (433 bp) and CO1 (610 bp), verified the identification by demonstrating 100% similarity to D. immitis specimens deposited in GenBank. Brown bears in Greece occupy habitats that are shared with the potential wild and domestic hosts and the vectors of D. immitis and thus may be particularly susceptible to this parasite. This report contributes to the knowledge of dirofilariosis spread in Europe and on the epidemiological threats that may affect the survival of the endangered brown bear in Greece.

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