Seroprevalence of antibodies against the cat lungworm Aelurostrongylus abstrusus in cats from endemic areas of Italy
Aelurostrongylus abstrusus (Nematoda, Metastrongyloidea) is a worldwide occurring lungworm causing verminous pneumonia in cats. To date the Baermann method is the most used procedure to diagnose A. abstrusus infection by isolating first stage larvae from faeces, though its sensitivity and specificity can be impaired by several factors. An enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) for the detection of antibodies against A. abstrusus has been recently developed as a diagnostic alternative. The present study evaluated the seroprevalence for A. abstrusus infection in cats from two endemic areas of Italy. Overall, 250 sera were sampled and tested for the presence of antibodies against A. abstrusus. Based on the results obtained from 20 cats proven to be infected by A. abstrusus using Baermann technique and molecular methods, and from 20 negative cats (Subset A), a cut off value of 0.347 optical density (OD) was determined, leading to a sensitivity of 95% and a specificity of 100%. Two-hundred and ten cats (142 and 68 from Abruzzo and Umbria regions, respectively) were included in Subset B (i.e. 202 negative by Baermann examination and 8 positive for Troglostrongylus brevior). Antibodies against A. abstrusus were detected in forty-five (21.4%, 95% CI: 16.1-27.6%) samples. This study confirms the occurrence of A. abstrusus in endemic areas of Italy and indicates that one-fifth of randomly selected cats have or had a lungworm infection with production of antibodies.