Background: Thelazia callipaeda (Spirurida, Thelaziidae) is a vector-borne zoonotic eye worm with a broad host spectrum. In Europe, it is an emerging threat, having greatly expanded its geographical distribution during the past two decades. In Romania, T. callipaeda has been previously reported in domestic and wild canids and felids. The aim of the present study was to assess the occurrence of T. callipaeda in mustelids in the country.
Methods: Between March 2015 and April 2019, 77 road-killed mustelids (3 pine martens, Martes martes; 6 European polecats, Mustela putorius; 13 beech martens, Martes foina; and 55 European badgers, Meles meles) were examined by necropsy. If present, all ocular nematodes were collected and stored in absolute ethanol, for subsequent morphological and molecular identification.
Results: Two animals were found to be infected with T. callipaeda: one European badger and one beech marten. The molecular analysis revealed a 100% nucleotide similarity to T. callipaeda haplotype h1 for all the sequenced specimens.
Conclusions: To our knowledge, the present study demonstrates for the first time the occurrence of T. callipaeda in mustelids from Romania, records the easternmost locality of the parasite in Europe, and represents the first report of T. callipaeda in the European badger, Meles meles, extending the known host range for this parasite in Europe.
Keywords: Host; Martes foina; Meles meles; Mustelidae; Thelazia callipaeda.