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1.  First report outside Eastern Europe of West Nile virus lineage 2 related to the Volgograd 2007 strain, northeastern Italy, 2014 
Parasites & Vectors  2015;8:418.
West Nile virus (WNV) is a Flavivirus transmitted to vertebrate hosts by mosquitoes, maintained in nature through an enzootic bird-mosquito cycle. In Europe the virus became of major public health and veterinary concern in the 1990s. In Italy, WNV re-emerged in 2008, ten years after the previous outbreak and is currently endemic in many areas of the country. In particular, the northeastern part of Italy experience continuous viral circulation, with human outbreaks caused by different genovariants of WNV lineage 1, Western-European and Mediterranean subcluster, and WNV lineage 2, Hungarian clade. Alongside the WNV National Surveillance Program that has been in place since 2002, regional surveillance plans were implemented after 2008 targeting mosquitoes, animals and humans.
In July and September 2014, West Nile virus lineage 2 was detected in pools of Culex pipiens s.l. mosquitoes from northeastern Italy. Whole genome sequencing and phylogenetic analysis of two representative samples identified the presence of WNV lineage 2 related to the Volgograd 2007 strain (99.3 % nucleotide sequence identity), in addition to WNV lineage 2 Hungarian clade.
This is the first evidence of the circulation of a WNV lineage 2 strain closely related to the Volgograd 2007 outside Eastern Europe, where it has caused large human outbreaks. This strain may pose a new threat to animal and human health in Italy.
PMCID: PMC4534017  PMID: 26265490
West Nile virus lineage 2; Volgograd strain; Culex pipiens s.l; Northeastern Italy
2.  Occurrence and identification of risk areas of Ixodes ricinus-borne pathogens: a cost-effectiveness analysis in north-eastern Italy 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:61.
Ixodes ricinus, a competent vector of several pathogens, is the tick species most frequently reported to bite humans in Europe. The majority of human cases of Lyme borreliosis (LB) and tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) occur in the north-eastern region of Italy. The aims of this study were to detect the occurrence of endemic and emergent pathogens in north-eastern Italy using adult tick screening, and to identify areas at risk of pathogen transmission. Based on our results, different strategies for tick collection and pathogen screening and their relative costs were evaluated and discussed.
From 2006 to 2008 adult ticks were collected in 31 sites and molecularly screened for the detection of pathogens previously reported in the same area (i.e., LB agents, TBE virus, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Rickettsia spp., Babesia spp., "Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis"). Based on the results of this survey, three sampling strategies were evaluated a-posteriori, and the impact of each strategy on the final results and the overall cost reductions were analyzed. The strategies were as follows: tick collection throughout the year and testing of female ticks only (strategy A); collection from April to June and testing of all adult ticks (strategy B); collection from April to June and testing of female ticks only (strategy C).
Eleven pathogens were detected in 77 out of 193 ticks collected in 14 sites. The most common microorganisms detected were Borrelia burgdorferi sensu lato (17.6%), Rickettsia helvetica (13.1%), and "Ca. N. mikurensis" (10.5%). Within the B. burgdorferi complex, four genotypes (i.e., B. valaisiana, B. garinii, B. afzelii, and B. burgdorferi sensu stricto) were found. Less prevalent pathogens included R. monacensis (3.7%), TBE virus (2.1%), A. phagocytophilum (1.5%), Bartonella spp. (1%), and Babesia EU1 (0.5%). Co-infections by more than one pathogen were diagnosed in 22% of infected ticks. The prevalences of infection assessed using the three alternative strategies were in accordance with the initial results, with 13, 11, and 10 out of 14 sites showing occurrence of at least one pathogen, respectively. The strategies A, B, and C proposed herein would allow to reduce the original costs of sampling and laboratory analyses by one third, half, and two thirds, respectively. Strategy B was demonstrated to represent the most cost-effective choice, offering a substantial reduction of costs, as well as reliable results.
Monitoring of tick-borne diseases is expensive, particularly in areas where several zoonotic pathogens co-occur. Cost-effectiveness studies can support the choice of the best monitoring strategy, which should take into account the ecology of the area under investigation, as well as the available budget.
PMCID: PMC3337281  PMID: 22452970
Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne diseases; surveillance; economic evaluation; Italy.
3.  Occurrence of Rickettsia felis in dog and cat fleas (Ctenocephalides felis) from Italy 
Parasites & Vectors  2009;2(Suppl 1):S8.
Rickettsia felis is an obligate intracellular bacterium belonging to the spotted fever group, suspected to cause a murine typhus-like illness in humans, with a cosmopolitan distribution. This study was designed to estimate presence and occurrence of this pathogen in fleas collected from dogs and cats in different areas of Italy. Two species of fleas were identified, Ctenocephalides felis (80.3%) and Ctenocephalides canis (19.7%).
Overall, 320 fleas (257 C. felis and 63 C. canis) collected from 117 animals (73 dogs and 44 cats) were tested. Thirty-eight (11.9%) C. felis fleas, 13 from cats (17.6%) and 25 from dogs (10.2%) were positive for R. felis. No C. canis was positive. Fleas from cats showed a tendency to be more positive than fleas from dogs. Prevalence of R. felis among areas and within provinces of the same area was extremely variable, ranging from 0 to 35.3%. Overall, prevalence in north-eastern Italy (23.2%) was significantly higher than in south-western Italy (7.1%). This study confirmed the occurrence of R. felis in cat and dog fleas (C. felis) from Italy, similar to other European countries. The results also suggest that R. felis should be considered in the human differential diagnosis of any spotted-like fever in Italy, especially if the patient is known to have been exposed to flea bites.
PMCID: PMC2679400  PMID: 19426447

Results 1-3 (3)