The invasive mosquito Aedes albopictus (Skuse) (Diptera: Culicidae) has become widespread in Italy during the past decade. Also Italy has foci of canine filariasis caused by Dirofilaria (Spirurida: Onchocercidae), due to subcutaneous D. repens Railliet & Henry as well as the dog heartworm D. immitis (Leidy) transmitted by various vector mosquitoes (Diptera: Culicidae). In 2002, at Fiumicino, west of Rome (Lazio Region), 17% of dogs were found to have D. repens microfilariae in peripheral blood. To evaluate the role of Ae. albopictus as a vector of Dirofilaria in this area, female mosquitoes were collected daily, June-October 2002, landing on dog or human bait in a rural house at Focene. Mosquitoes were maintained at 27 degrees C and 70% RH for 6 days, to allow development or purging of filaria larvae, then identified and frozen for subsequent molecular assay with filaria-specific ribosomal S2-S16 primers. To distinguish specimens harbouring infective L3 Dirofilaria larvae, DNA was extracted separately from the mosquito abdomen and head-thorax. Dirofilaria species were identified by sequencing, confirmed by polymerase chain reaction of positive specimens using primers specific for D. immitis and D. repens. Dirofilaria DNA was detected in 3/154 (2%) of Ae. albopictus females examined: D. repens DNA in head-thorax and abdomen of one collected 27th July; D. immitis in the abdomen of one collected 24th September; DNA of both D. immitis and D. repens in the head-thorax of one collected 11th October 2002. Thus Ae. albopictus is a potential vector of both Dirofilarias in Italy, representing risks for veterinary and human health.
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