New parasite discovered in mosquitoes

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Hamburg scientists detect parasites for the first time in Germany

Scientists from Hamburg have found larvae of the so-called "dog skin worm" in mosquitoes for the first time in Germany. Until now, infections with these had only occurred in southern Europe, Africa and Asia, but "Climate change and the import of infected dogs from southern Europe can be causes for the establishment of this parasite, which was previously not native to Central Europe", according to a current press release from Bernhard -Nocht-Institute (BNI) for tropical medicine in Hamburg.

Dog skin worm not yet established in Central Europe Scientists of the Bernhard Nocht Institute for Tropical Medicine (BNI) have found larvae of the so-called "dog skin worm" (Dirofilaria repens) in mosquitoes for the first time in Germany - this had not yet occurred in Central Europe. The larvae are anything but harmless, because as the BNI writes, the mosquitoes could in rare cases "transmit the infection to humans and trigger meningitis, for example" - so far, however, no infections are known in Germany.

Interdisciplinary research team examines around 75,000 mosquitoes In the run-up to the discovery of the dog skin worm, an interdisciplinary research team led by Professor Egbert Tannich, head of the Department of Molecular Parasitology at the BNI, in collaboration with the municipal action group to combat mosquito pests (Kabs) has had around in the past two years 75,000 mosquitoes collected at 55 locations in nine federal states - and finally found in three species of mosquitoes from Brandenburg Dirofilaria repens. The researchers had broken new research ground with their mosquito analysis: "It is the first time that mosquitoes are being examined for parasites on a large scale in Germany", says Egbert Tannich, which now enables "[...] scientists to spread in good time before Warn infectious agents and possibly prevent spread ”.

Dog skin worm only rarely dangerous for humans The dog skin worm actually affects humans only in rare cases, because according to the BNI the main reservoir of the larvae are dogs, but sometimes also wild animals such as martens or foxes, in which the larvae would develop into sexually mature worms . Since the development is temperature-dependent and takes between 10 and 30 days, Germany has so far not been considered to be at risk due to the weather conditions, especially since mosquitoes live on average for less than 30 days: "In our institute, about 30 cases of this roundworm infection in humans have occurred in recent years proven - all cases were related to trips abroad, ”explains Tannichs.

More recently, infections in dogs in Germany. Accordingly, there have been infections with Dirofilaria repens, especially in southern Europe and in many countries in Africa and Asia, but in recent years, according to the BNI, there have also been reports of “infections acquired locally, too in Austria, the Czech Republic or Poland [...] and recently also in dogs in Germany. "

Can spread due to climate change? Due to the climate changes, it is quite realistic, according to Prof. Tannich, that larvae in the mosquitoes could develop quickly enough, at least in July and August - because since the parasite was found in two consecutive years, "there is a suspicion that at least in Brandenburg already a stable transmission takes place, "continues Tannich.

Veterinarians must discover infected animals and treat them quickly Given the current situation, it is now particularly important that veterinarians discover and treat as many infected animals as possible, because this is the only way to stop the further spread of the pathogen, warns Tannich, because "untreated dogs can Parasites carry up to seven years. "

Dogs often show no symptoms. According to the BNI, it is not easy to prove infection, because infected dogs would not show symptoms in many cases, but sometimes itching, skin inflammation or nodular changes would occur. While the dog is the main reservoir for the larvae, humans, as so-called "false hosts", are more likely to be accidentally infected by mosquitoes; normally the worms die spontaneously after transmission. Therefore, in the event of an infection, according to the BNI, doctors would in most cases only find "migratory swellings and nodules on the skin [...] or early parasitic stages on the eye", which would then have to be operated on - in rare cases, however, clinical pictures such as meningitis would also occur occur in humans, which would then have to be treated with medication. (No)

Image: Uwe Bergeest /

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