Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover (TiHo)TiHo eLib

Cardio-pulmonary parasites of the European wildcat (Felis silvestris) in Germany

Background

In the last years, research on feline cardio-pulmonary parasites has considerably increased in Europe. Not only domestic cats (Felis catus), but also European wildcats (Felis silvestris) can serve as definitive hosts for these nematodes. The F. silvestris population in Germany has been growing rapidly within the last decades; therefore, the assessment of its cardio-pulmonary parasite status is of importance to unravel whether the wildcat population serves as a substantial reservoir for these nematodes and might pose a health threat to domestic cats.

Methods

As part of a nature conservation project for European wildcats in the German federal state Rhineland-Palatinate, lungs (n = 128) and hearts (n = 111) of 128 F. silvestris found dead were examined for cardio-pulmonary parasites. All isolated parasites were identified morphologically, and results were confirmed by molecular analysis of a total of 3-11 specimens of each worm species.

Results

A total of 70.3% (90/128) wildcats were positive for at least one lungworm species. Angiostrongylus chabaudi was most common (53.1% [68/128]), followed by Aelurostrongylus abstrusus (42.2% [54/128]), Troglostrongylus brevior (31.3% [40/128]) and Capillaria spp. (3.1% [4/128]). Of note, about two-thirds of the infected wildcats harboured coinfections. Infection intensities ranged from 1 to 167 nematodes per wildcat. Generalised linear models revealed a strong correlation between A. chabaudi and A. abstrusus infection, and prevalences were higher in adult than in younger wildcats, except for T. brevior. Moreover, the T. brevior prevalence varied significantly with nutritional status.

Conclusions

This study shows that feline cardio-pulmonary nematodes are common parasites in European wildcats in Germany but do not appear to have a serious impact on the overall health of the population. Due to presumed spillover events via prey, cardio-pulmonary nematodes may circulate between the wildcat population and domestic cats and might therefore pose a health risk to individual domestic cats.

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