Detection of vector-borne pathogens in cats and their ectoparasites in southern Italy

Maria Flaminia Persichetti, Laia Solano-Gallego, Lorena Serrano, Laura Altet, Stefano Reale, Marisa Masucci, Maria Grazia Pennisi

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49 Citations (Scopus)


© 2016 Persichetti et al. Background: Vector-borne pathogens are the subject of several investigations due to the zoonotic concern of some of them. However, limited data are available about the simultaneous presence of these pathogens in cats and their ectoparasites. The aim of the present study was to define the species of ectoparasites found on cats as well as to investigate vector-borne pathogens in cats and their ectoparasites in southern Italy. Methods: Blood from 42 cats and fleas or flea pools (n = 28) and ticks (n = 73) collected from them were investigated by quantitative PCR for the detection of vector-borne pathogens. Feline serum samples were tested by IFAT to detect IgG antibodies against Leishmania infantum, Bartonella henselae, Rickettsia conorii, Rickettsia felis, Rickettsia typhi, Babesia microti, Ehrlichia canis and Anaplasma phagocytophilum antigens. Results: Only one flea species (Ctenocephalides felis) and four tick species belonging to the genera Rhipicephalus and Ixodes were identified on cats from southern Italy. Molecular evidence of Bartonella spp., Rickettsia spp., hemoplasmas, Babesia vogeli and L. infantum was found in ectoparasites (fleas and/or ticks) while DNA from Hepatozoon felis and Ehrlichia/Anaplasma spp. was not detected. Likewise, DNAs from Bartonella, hemoplasma and Leishmania were the only pathogens amplified from feline blood samples. Cats had also antibodies against all the investigated pathogens with the exception of Rickettsia typhi. Agreement between serological and molecular results in individual cats and their ectoparasites was not found. The only exception was for Bartonella with a fair to moderate agreement between individual cats and their ectoparasites. Bartonella clarridgeiae was the species most frequently found in cats and their fleas followed by B. henselae. Conclusions: In conclusion, cats harboring ticks and fleas are frequently exposed to vector-borne pathogens. Furthermore, ticks and fleas harbored by cats frequently carry pathogens of zoonotic concern therefore appropriate feline ectoparasiticide preventative treatments should be used in cats.
Original languageEnglish
Article number247
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 10 May 2016


  • Cat
  • Flea
  • Tick
  • Vector-borne pathogens


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