Clinical evaluation of outdoor cats exposed to ectoparasites and associated risk for vector-borne infections in southern Italy

Maria Flaminia Persichetti, Maria Grazia Pennisi, Angela Vullo, Marisa Masucci, Antonella Migliazzo, Laia Solano-Gallego

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22 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 The Author(s). Background: Cats can be carriers of infected arthropods and be infected with several vector-borne pathogens (VBP) but there is limited knowledge about their pathogenic role in cats. Results: A cross-sectional controlled study investigated the clinical status and antibody (Bartonella henselae, Rickettsia conorii, Ehrlichia canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Babesia microti and Leishmania infantum) and/or blood PCR (Mycoplasma spp., Bartonella spp., Rickettsia spp., Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp., piroplasmids, L. infantum, Hepatozoon felis) prevalence in 197 cats. Outdoor cats lacking ectoparasiticide treatment or hosting ectoparasites (study group [SG], n = 134) and indoor cats treated against ectoparasites (control group [CG], n = 63) were enrolled. Clinical data and retroviral co-infections were compared between the two groups. Multivariable analysis tested associations between variables and VBP exposure. Lymphadenia, stomatitis, and various haematological abnormalities were statistically more frequent in SG. Antibodies against R. conorii, B. henselae, A. phagocytophylum, B. microti, E. canis and L. infantum were detected. Bartonella henselae, Bartonella clarridgeiae, Mycoplasma haemofelis, "Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum" and "Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis" DNA were identified. Very high antibody (87.8%) and PCR (40.1%) positivity to at least one pathogen were detected and were significantly higher in SG. Co-infections were confirmed in about one-third of the cats and were more frequent in SG cats. Molecular and overall (antibody and PCR) positivity to Bartonella and antibody positivity to R. conorii were higher in SG. Multivariable analysis found significant associations of Bartonella spp. infection with Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV) infection and increased globulins, and of Mycoplasma spp. infection with adult age, FIV infection, anaemia, and increased creatinine. Conclusions: A very high prevalence of exposure to zoonotic VBP was found in cats, with Rickettsia and Bartonella infections being most prevalent. Some risk factors were documented namely for Mycoplasma spp. and Bartonella spp. The lifestyle of cats is clinically relevant and requires specific preventative measures to protect their health.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbers13071-018-2725-8
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 20 Mar 2018


  • Cat
  • Ectoparasite
  • Indoor lifestyle
  • Outdoor lifestyle
  • Risk factor
  • Vector-borne pathogens
  • Zoonosis

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