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Vet Parasitol. 2003 Oct 30;116(4):315-25.

Current status and epidemiological observation of Thelazia callipaeda (Spirurida, Thelaziidae) in dogs, cats and foxes in Italy: a "coincidence" or a parasitic disease of the Old Continent?

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  • 1Department of Animal Health and Welfare, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Bari, Str. Prov. per Casamassima km3, 70010, Bari, Italy.


Thelazia callipaeda is a spirurid nematode which causes ocular infections in dogs and man and, occasionally, in cats, foxes and rabbits. The intermediate host and vector of T. callipaeda is unknown. For a long time T. callipaeda incidence was reported only from the Russian Federation and the Far East, but recently it has also been found in Italy. In order to investigate the spread of T. callipaeda in Italy, a survey was carried out in two sites, site A in the Piedmont region (North West Italy), and site B in the Basilicata region (Southern Italy). Dogs, cats and foxes in site A and dogs in site B were examined for eyeworms, using different procedures and timing. From January 1995 to August 2002, 91 dogs, 4 cats and 903 fox carcasses were examined in site A, and from October 1999 to January 2003, 443 dogs were examined in site B, and the eyeworms collected were identified using morphological keys. Twenty-one (23.07%) and 185 (41.76%) of the dogs from sites A and B, respectively, were found to be infected by eyeworms; furthermore, all the cats examined and 46 fox carcasses (5.1%) were positive for eyeworms. All the nematodes collected were identified as T. callipaeda. These results indicate that T. callipaeda is not confined to Eastern Europe and Asia, but that it has spread to the Old Continent, and to both Northern and Southern Italy. Considering the high prevalence of infected dogs reported in some municipalities (e.g. 60.14% of 138 dogs examined in a municipality from site B), it is assumed that one or more vectors are significantly present in the areas under investigation. Furthermore, there is good reason to believe that T. callipaeda is also present in other European countries. Speculation as to the origins of this parasitic infestation in Europe and the biology of T. callipaeda and its vector/s is also discussed.

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