An insect-borne parasitic disease found in a dog in Finland for the first time


<p>For the first time in Finland, an infection with the insect-borne Onchocerca parasite has been found in a dog. The necropsy carried out by the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira revealed a chronic eye inflammation in an adult dog imported from Romania. The infected eye contained a large number of parasitic worms. The dog’s other eye had been removed before its arrival in Finland last autumn.</p>

The causative agent of the dog’s infection  has the typical morphological characteristics of  the species Onchocerca lupi, which originally found in wolves. The species will be confirmed by molecular techiniques. Onchocerca parasites spread through flying, blood-sucking insects. Infection in a dog usually leads to a severe eye infection, for which there is no medical treatment. The infection cannot be diagnosed from a blood sample, as for the time being there is no test available for antibodies, through which asymptomatic carriers could be identified.  

In Finland, parasites of the same species  have been found e.g. in bovines, so it is possible that Finnish insect species could spread also the parasite causing the disease in dogs. The bovine parasite is common throughout Europe, and it has not been found to cause disease in humans.

Rate of parasitic infections rising

Over the last 15 years, eye infections caused by parasites of the Onchocerca species have increased in dogs in the United States and Southern Europe. Cases have been reported in Europe at least in Greece, Hungary, Turkey and Germany.The causative agent of the infections is the species Onchocerca lupi, originally found in wolves.

There are two recent reports in Turkey of eye infections in humans caused by this dog parasite.

A parasite of the same genus, Onchocerca volvulus, causes a disease called river blindness in humans.Its endemic areas include Sub-Saharan Africa and South America, where the parasite is transmitted through local insects.Tens of millions of people have been infected, and it leads to permanent loss of sight.

Further information
Veera Karkamo, LVM, Researcher, t. +358 (0)50 544 1986
Professor Marjukka Anttila, Head of Research Unit, t. +358 (0)50 354 4601


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