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1.  Ticks infesting humans in Italy and associated pathogens 
Parasites & Vectors  2014;7:328.
Background
Ticks may transmit a large variety of pathogens, which cause illnesses in animals and humans, commonly referred to as to tick-borne diseases (TBDs). The incidence of human TBDs in Italy is underestimated because of poor surveillance and the scant amount of studies available.
Methods
Samples (n = 561) were collected from humans in four main geographical areas of Italy (i.e., northwestern, northeastern, southern Italy, and Sicily), which represent a variety of environments. After being morphologically identified, ticks were molecularly tested with selected protocols for the presence of pathogens of the genera Rickettsia, Babesia, Theileria, Candidatus Neoehrlichia mikurensis, Borrelia and Anaplasma.
Results
Ticks belonged to 16 species of the genera Argas, Dermacentor, Haemaphysalis, Hyalomma, Ixodes and Rhipicephalus, with Ixodes ricinus (59.5%) being the species most frequently retrieved, followed by Rhipicephalus sanguineus sensu lato (21.4%). Nymphs were the life stage most frequently retrieved (41%), followed by adult females (34.6%). The overall positivity to any pathogen detected was 18%. Detected microorganisms were Rickettsia spp. (17.0%), Anaplasma phagocytophilum (0.8%), Borrelia afzelii (0.5%), Borrelia valaisiana (0.3%), C. N. mikurensis (0.5%) and Babesia venatorum (0.6%).
Conclusions
Results indicate that people living in the Italian peninsula are at risk of being bitten by different tick species, which may transmit a plethora of TBD causing pathogens and that co-infections may also occur.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-7-328
PMCID: PMC4223688  PMID: 25023709
Ticks; Pathogens; Humans; Tick-borne diseases; Italy; Distribution
2.  Distribution and habitat characterization of the recently introduced invasive mosquito Aedes koreicus [Hulecoeteomyia koreica], a new potential vector and pest in north-eastern Italy 
Parasites & Vectors  2013;6:292.
Background
The container breeding species belonging to the genus Aedes (Meigen) are frequently recorded out of their place of origin. Invasive Aedes species are proven or potential vectors of important Arboviruses and their establishment in new areas pose a threat for human and animal health. A new species of exotic mosquito was recorded in 2011 in north-eastern Italy: Aedes (Finlaya) koreicus [Hulecoeteomyia koreica]. The aim of this study was to characterize the biology, the environment and the current distribution of this mosquito in north-eastern Italy. Morphological details useful to discriminate this species from other invasive Aedes mosquitoes are also given (see Additional files).
Methods
All possible breeding sites for larval development were monitored. In addition, ovitraps and traps for adults were used to collect eggs and adults. The mosquitoes (larvae and adults) were identified morphologically and molecularly. Environmental data and climatic variables during the period of mosquito activity (from April to October) were considered.
Results
Aedes koreicus was found in 37 municipalities (39.4%) and was detected in 40.2% of places and in 37.3% of larval habitats monitored, in a range of altitude from 173 to 1250 m.a.s.l.. Garden centres were the most common locations (66.7%), followed by streets/squares (57.1%), private gardens (46.4%) and cemeteries (21.1%) (p < 0.01). The main larval habitats were catch basins (48.5%) and artificial water containers (41.8%). As for Aedes albopictus [Stegomyia albopicta], ovitraps were attractive for adult females resulting in the higher rate of positivity (15/21; 71.4%) among breeding sites. The period of Ae. koreicus activity ranged from March 29 to October 29.
Conclusion
The species is clearly established in the area and is now overlapping with other vectors such as Ae. albopictus and colonizing areas over 800 m.a.s.l, not yet or sporadically reached by the tiger mosquito. The data collected are essential to assess the risk of colonization of other parts of Italy and Europe, as well as the risk of spreading of pathogens transmitted. These findings stress the importance of implementing entomological surveillance for early detection of invasive species, which is necessary for eradication or limitation of its further spread.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-292
PMCID: PMC3852218  PMID: 24457085
Aedes koreicus; Invasive mosquito species; Entomological surveillance; North-eastern Italy
3.  Molecular xenomonitoring of Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens in mosquitoes from north-eastern Italy by real-time PCR coupled with melting curve analysis 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:76.
Background
Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens are transmitted by bloodsucking culicid mosquitoes belonging to Culex, Aedes, Ochlerotatus, Anopheles and Mansonia genera.
The detection of filarioids in mosquitoes for assessing distribution of vectors and/or of pathogens in a given area (also known as “xenomonitoring”), when based on individual dissection of wild-caught female mosquitoes is time consuming and hardly applicable in large epidemiological surveys.
Our study aimed to evaluate the recently developed duplex real-time PCR for screening large number of culicids and to assess their positivity for D. immitis and D. repens in an area where both species are endemic.
Methods
A duplex real-time PCR was used to detect and differentiate D. immitis and D. repens in mosquitoes collected in six provinces of the Veneto region using 43 carbon dioxide-baited traps under the frame of an entomological surveillance program to monitor the vectors of West Nile disease. From early May till October 2010, unfed female mosquitoes (n = 40,892) were captured in 20 selected sites.
Results
Mosquitoes identified as Culex pipiens, Ochlerotatus caspius, Aedes vexans and Culex modestus were grouped into 995 pools according to species, day and site of collection (from minimum of 1 to maximum of 57). Out of 955 pools, 23 (2.41 %) scored positive for Dirofilaria spp. of which, 21 (2.2 %) for D. immitis and two (0.21 %) for D. repens. An overall Estimated Rate of Infection (ERI) of 0.06 % was recorded, being higher in Och. caspius and Ae. vexans (i.e., 0.18 % and 0.14 %, respectively). At least one mosquito pool was positive for Dirofilaria spp. in each province with the highest ERI recorded in Vicenza and Padova provinces (i.e., 0.42% and 0.16 %, respectively). Mosquitoes collected in all provinces were positive for D. immitis whereas, only two (i.e., Padova and Rovigo) provinces scored positive for D. repens. All mosquito species, except for Cx. modestus, were positive for D. immitis, whereas D. repens was only found in Cx. pipiens.
Conclusions
The results suggest that both Dirofilaria species are endemic and may occur in sympatry in the examined area. The molecular approach herein used represents a powerful tool for surveillance programs of D. immitis and D. repens in the culicid vectors towards a better understanding of the epidemiology of the infections they cause and their seasonal transmission patterns.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-76
PMCID: PMC3438040  PMID: 22520170
Dirofilaria immitis; Dirofilaria repens; Real-time PCR; Mosquitoes; Vector; Surveillance
4.  Occurrence and identification of risk areas of Ixodes ricinus-borne pathogens: a cost-effectiveness analysis in north-eastern Italy 
Parasites & Vectors  2012;5:61.
Background
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.
Methods
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).
Results
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.
Conclusions
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.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-61
PMCID: PMC3337281  PMID: 22452970
Ixodes ricinus; tick-borne diseases; surveillance; economic evaluation; Italy.
5.  First report in italy of the exotic mosquito species Aedes (Finlaya) koreicus, a potential vector of arboviruses and filariae 
Parasites & Vectors  2011;4:188.
Background
In the Veneto region (north-eastern Italy) an entomological surveillance system has been implemented since the introduction of the Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus) in 1991. During the routine monitoring activity in a tiger mosquito-free area, an unexpected mosquito was noticed, which clearly did not belong to the recorded Italian fauna.
Findings
At the end of May 2011, twelve larvae and pupae were collected in a small village in Belluno province (Veneto region) from a single manhole. Ten adults reared in the laboratory were morphologically and genetically identified as Aedes (Finlaya) koreicus (Edwards, 1917), a species native to Southeast Asia. The subsequent investigations carried out in the following months in the same village provided evidence that this species had become established locally. Entomological and epidemiological investigations are currently ongoing in the surrounding area, to verify the eventual extension of the species outside the village and to trace back the route of entry into Italy.
Conclusions
This is the first report in Italy of the introduction of the exotic mosquito Ae. koreicus. This species has been shown experimentally to be competent in the transmission of the Japanese encephalitis virus and of the dog heartworm Dirofilaria immitis and is considered a potential vector of other arboviruses. Thus, the establishment of this species may increase the current risk or pose new potential threats, for human and animal health. This finding considerably complicates the entomological monitoring of the Asian tiger mosquito Ae. albopictus in Italy and stresses the importance of implementing the entomological surveillance for the early detection of and the rapid response against invasive mosquito species.
doi:10.1186/1756-3305-4-188
PMCID: PMC3203849  PMID: 21951867
Aedes koreicus; Italy; exotic mosquito; invasive species; entomological monitoring

Results 1-5 (5)