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A heart-breaking disease: how to prevent lungworm infection

02 September 2018
9 mins read
Volume 9 · Issue 7


Since first detected in the British Isles, in a Greyhound in Ireland in 1968, the lungworm Angiostrongylus vasorum has spread to become a prevalent parasitic disease, and a leading cause of morbidity and mortality, in dogs. Faced with the increasing threat posed by canine lungworm, parasitologists are tracing the geographic spread of infections; and some clinicians remain uncertain about the optimal frequency of dosing for preventive therapy. For this reason, control of canine lungworms has been an increasingly important focus of the veterinary profession, with significant progress being made on a number of fronts, particularly the diagnosis and treatment of lungworm disease. One notable success has been the development of potent anthelmintic drugs to control this disease. Despite this progress, infection due to A. vasorum remains a formidable clinical problem, and may continue to do so for many years to come. What has been learned over the past decade, is that control of lungworms is too complex to be handled by a single approach; and any attempt to do so may be unsuccessful. In this article, the author argues that the implementation of integrated parasite control strategies is crucial, in order to mitigate the risks caused by lungworms, reduce the transmission of infection and improve treatment outcomes.

Angiostrongylus vasorum is a nematode parasite that affects the cardiopulmonary system of canids (Elsheikha et al, 2014). It is maintained in a dog-slug-dog transmission cycle. There are many methods by which canine lungworm can be circulated in nature, creating more opportunities for dogs, and wild carnivores, to be exposed to the infective stages. Accidental ingestion of infected gastropods (snails or slugs) harboring infective third-stage larvae, is believed to be the main source of infection. Infection can also be transmitted through ingestion of an infected paratenic (transport) host. This gastropod-borne metastrongyloid parasite, has gained attention from the veterinary community due to its extensive distribution throughout the UK, mainland Europe, Asia and Africa. In the last few years, the number of cases of canine lungworm infection has risen in several regions of North America (Conboy, 2009), with increasing attention being paid to the epidemiology of this parasite in South America (Penagos-Tabares et al, 2018). A similar trend has been also observed in the UK (reviewed in Elsheikha et al, 2014).

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