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First molecular confirmation of multiple zoonotic vector-borne diseases in pet dogs and cats of Hong Kong SAR

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Dave George



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (CC BY 4.0).


© 2023In recent years, the incidence of vector-borne diseases (VBDs) has increased throughout the globe. In particular, tick-borne diseases (e.g., caused by Ehrlichia canis, E. ewingii, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, A. platys, Borrelia burgdorferi sensu stricto (s.s.) and Babesia gibsoni) and mosquito-borne diseases (e.g., caused by Dirofilaria immitis) diseases pose a burden on animal health. Nevertheless, there have been no studies undertaken on the occurrence of VBDs in pet dogs and cats in Hong Kong SAR. This study fills this gap, and is the first to determine the seroprevalence of major VBDs, such as those caused by D. immitis, E. canis, E. ewingii, A. phagocytophilum, A. platys and B. burgdorferi s.s, in dogs and cats through commercially available SNAP 4Dx plus testing. Infection by all these pathogens and Babesia sp. was further assessed through PCR and DNA sequencing. A total of 224 blood samples were collected from domestic dogs (n = 159) and cats (n = 65) in Hong Kong SAR during summer 2022. Hematocrit and platelet counts were determined in each blood sample and other hematological parameters were assessed using an automatic hematology analyzer and vortex the specimen for one to two minutes at or near the highest setting to minimize the clumping. All cat sera samples were negative for tested pathogens, but antibodies against some of the pathogens were detected in dog sera samples. Here, the highest figures were recorded for seroprevalence of E. canis/E. ewingii (10.7%), followed by D. immitis (5.7%), and A. phagocytophilum/A. platys (2.5%). No B. burgdorferi s.s. antibodies were detected in any of the dogs tested. Through molecular diagnostics, we detected the presence of B. gibsoni (3.7%), E. canis (3.1%), D. immitis (5.7%), and A. phagocytophilum (1.3%). Neighbor-Joining phylogenetic trees for vector-borne pathogens (i.e., genus Anaplasma sp.) showed 100% clustering to Japan, the USA and Germany, whereas genus Ehrlichia sp. showed 100% clustering to China, Turkey, Cuba, and Greece. Similarly, genus Babesia sp. clustered 100% to India, Sri Lanka and Austria, while D. immitis clustered in Iraq, South Korea, Portugal, France, the USA and Italy. This study provides the first evidence on the occurrence of tick-borne pathogens in pet dogs in Hong Kong SAR. Based on these findings, it is recommended that appropriate screening should be undertaken in domestic dogs to evaluate the prevalence of these pathogens and promote the timely control of VBDs.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Hussain S, Hussain A, Aziz MU, Song B, Zeb J, Hasib FMY, Almendros A, Cabezas-Cruz A, George D, Sparagano O

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Ticks and Tick-borne Diseases

Year: 2023

Volume: 14

Issue: 4

Print publication date: 01/07/2023

Online publication date: 28/04/2023

Acceptance date: 25/04/2023

Date deposited: 16/05/2023

ISSN (print): 1877-959X

ISSN (electronic): 1877-9603

Publisher: Elsevier GmbH


DOI: 10.1016/j.ttbdis.2023.102191


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