Cercopithifilaria Nematode Infection

Canine vector-borne diseases are caused by a spectrum of pathogens that are transmitted by arthropods, including ticks, fleas, mosquitoes and sand flies. Dogs are reservoir hosts for several arthropod-borne pathogens, some of which are of major zoonotic concern. The approximately 14 species of Cercopithifilaria are common parasites of ungulates, canids, opossums, rodents, and rabbits. Cercopithifilaria grassii and Cercopithifilaria bainae are parasite of dogs in Europe and Africa. Cercopithifilaria johnstoni occurs in Australian marsupials and rodents.

Among the most studied parasites of dogs, Dirofilaria immitis and Dirofilaria repens, causing heartworm disease and tissue infections, respectively, are characterized by blood circulating immature roundworms (microfilariae) and are regarded as agents of zoonoses. Aside from these two filarial worms, dogs may be parasitized by other less known species, such as Onchocerca lupi and Cercopithifilaria, whose larvae reside in tissues. In particular, recent studies on filarioids infesting dogs in Europe revealed that they are infected by at least three species of the genus Cercopithifilaria. Infection with C. bainae is fairly common in European dogs. Cercopithifilaria species infestation is well tolerated by the brown dog tick (Rhipicephalus sanguineus), which could explain the common occurrence of this nematode among tick-infested dogs.1 Cercopithifilaria parasites are transmitted by hard ticks (Ixodidae) and parasitize a range of species, including dogs. In some areas, from 13.9% to 10.5% of tick-exposed dog population may be infected with the parasite.3

The adult stages of Cercopithifilaria inhabit the subcutaneous tissues, while microfilariae are found in the dermis skin layer and are absent from the main blood stream. Some dogs infected with Cercopithifilaria species may not have physical abnormalities that could be associated to the presence of immature worms in the skin. However, based on clinical findings, an itchy, widespread and inflammatory atypical dermatitis without any other apparent cause can occasionally be seen in dogs infected with microfilariae of Cercopithifilaria bainae or other Cercopithifilaria species. With heavy infestation, a rhabdomyosarcoma and severe clinical condition may develop. Cercopithifilaria species localizing in the subcutaneous tissues of dogs remain almost unknown to the majority of the parasitologists and veterinarians due to the difficulties in collecting skin snips for their detection.1

Cercopithifilaria bainae micrograph
Cercopithifilaria bainae microphilariae
Credit: © 2013 Otranto et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.


  1. Redescription of Cercopithifilaria bainae Almeida & Vicente, 1984 (Spirurida, Onchocercidae) from a dog in Sardinia, Italy
  2. Diversity of Cercopithifilaria species in dogs from Portugal. Helder CE Cortes et al.
  3. On a Cercopithifilaria sp. transmitted by Rhipicephalus sanguineus: a neglected, but widespread filarioid of dogs
  4. First report of Cercopithifilaria spp. in dogs from Eastern Europe with an overview of their geographic distribution in Europe. Angela Monica Ionică & Gianluca D'Amico & Barbora Mitková & Zsuzsa Kalmár & Giada Annoscia & Domenico Otranto & David Modrý & Andrei Daniel Mihalca
  5. Nematode Parasites of Vertebrates: Their Development and Transmission. Roy C. Anderson

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