Is heartworm disease really spreading in Europe?

Vet Parasitol. 2005 Oct 24;133(2-3):137-48. doi: 10.1016/j.vetpar.2005.04.009.


Based on recently published surveys and newly acquired data, a study was conducted to verify the distribution of filarial worm (Filarioidea) infections in Europe, with particular emphasis on canine heartworm infection (Dirofilaria immitis). A Geographic Information System based on thermal regimen was constructed as a means to identify areas potentially suitable for heartworm transmission, taking into account that the development of D. immitis larvae in the mosquito does not occur below the threshold temperature of approximately 14 degrees C. Furthermore, a bionomic model of D. immitis in its mosquito vectors, which calculates the moving cumulative heartworm development unit parameter, was applied using the available temperature data to assess the theoretic transmission timing of heartworm in Europe. The results show that the earliest infection risk occurs in Spain on March 21 and the latest risk occurs in Spain on September 11. The longest risk period occurs in Spain (Murcia station: March 21-November 11), and the shortest risk period occurs in northeastern Europe. The study also provides the first risk assessment maps for Europe and suggests that if the actual climatic trend continues, filarial infection should spread into previously infection-free areas.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Climate
  • Culicidae / parasitology*
  • Dirofilaria immitis / growth & development
  • Dirofilaria immitis / isolation & purification*
  • Dirofilariasis / epidemiology*
  • Dirofilariasis / transmission*
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases / transmission
  • Dogs
  • Europe / epidemiology
  • Geographic Information Systems
  • Models, Biological
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sentinel Surveillance / veterinary
  • Temperature