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Angiostrongylus vasorum: an update

01 September 2012
5 mins read
Volume 3 · Issue 7


Angiostrongylus vasorum is a parasite increasing in range and prevalence in the UK. Originally limited to a few endemic foci in the south of the UK, it is now spreading north. Public awareness of this parasite is also increasing due to recent television advertising campaigns. As a result it is important for veterinary nurses to be prepared to field questions about the parasite and give up to date and accurate advice. This article reviews recent changes to the distribution of the parasite, public awareness as well as the diagnostic tests, treatments and preventative measures available.

Angiostrongylus vasorum (Figure 1), commonly known as lungworm or ‘French’ heartworm is a parasite of canids. This article provides an update on recent and possible future changes to the geography, diagnosis, treatment and prevention of the parasite.

Foxes act as a natural reservoir of A. vasorum with dogs becoming infected from contaminated, slugs, snails and frogs within their environment. This wildlife reservoir tends to lead towards high concentrations of cases in dogs within specific geographic areas or ‘hot spots’ (Morgan et al, 2005). In recent years there has been spread of the parasite across the country. A. vasorum was first reported in the UK in Cornwall (Simpson and Neal, 1982) with cases then reported in South Wales (Patteson et al, 1987). The disease then appeared to spread with cases increasingly reported in the South East of England (Chapman et al, 2004) and then in the Midlands (Morgan et al, 2008). Cases have now been reported in Scotland (Helm et al, 2009) and in the North of England (Yamakawa et al, 2009). It was initially thought this may be due to increased reporting rather than genuine spread but this pattern in the UK has been mirrored in many other countries (Morgan and Shaw, 2010) and would appear to represent a true emergence of the disease. This emergence has relevance for veterinarians and veterinary nurses (VNs) in practice who must be aware of A. vasorum as a differential for cardio pulmonary disease or in coagulopathies of unknown origin. Due to recent campaigns to raise public awareness of A. vasorum by Bayer over the summers of 2011 and 2012 VNs in practice are increasingly required to field questions about A. vasorum from the general public. The campaign raised the following main points:

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