A molecular survey of vector-borne pathogens and haemoplasmas in owned cats across Italy

Maria Stefania Latrofa, Roberta Iatta, Federica Toniolo, Tommaso Furlanello, Silvia Ravagnan, Gioia Capelli, Bettina Schunack, Bruno Chomel, Andrea Zatelli, Jairo Mendoza-Roldan, Filipe Dantas-Torres, Domenico Otranto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Feline vector-borne pathogens (FeVBPs) have been increasingly investigated for their impact on cat health and their zoonotic potential. The aim of the present study was to assess the prevalence of FeVBPs and haemoplasmas in cats across Italy and to identify potential risk factors linked to their occurrence. Methods: Blood samples from 958 owned cats living in the North (n = 556), Centre (n = 173) and South (n = 229) of Italy were tested for Babesia spp., Hepatozoon spp., Ehrlichia spp., Anaplasma spp. and filarioids by conventional PCR (cPCR) and for haemoplasmas and Bartonella spp. by SYBR green real-time PCR. Cats included in the study represent a sub-sample from a larger number of animals enrolled in a previous study, which were selected based on the geographical origin. Data on cats' positivity for Leishmania infantum, feline leukaemia virus (FeLV) and for feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), available from the previous study, were included and examined. Potential risk factors for pathogen infection were assessed in relationship to categorical variables including sex, geographical origin, breed, neutering status and age of cats. Results: Out of the 958 cats, 194 (20.2%) were positive for at least one of the tested pathogens, 89 (16%) from the North, 32 (18.5%) from the Centre and 73 (31.9%) from the South of Italy. A high prevalence of FeVBPs was detected in male cats (n = 125, 27.8%), living in the southern part of the country (n = 73, 31.9%), younger than 18 months of age (n = 24, 22.4%) and not neutered (n = 39; 27.5%). In particular, 24 cats (2.5%) tested PCR-positive for Bartonella spp., of which 1.6% for B. henselae and 0.9% for B. clarridgeiae. A total of 111 cats scored PCR-positive for haemoplasmas (11.6%), specifically "Candidatus Mycoplasma haemominutum" (n = 95, 9.9%), M. haemofelis (n = 14, 1.5%) and "Candidatus Mycoplasma turicensis" (n = 2, 0.2%). Moreover, 39, 31 and 8 cats were positive for FeLV (4.1%), L. infantum (3.2%) and FIV (0.8%), respectively. Co-infections were registered for 19 (9.8%) cats. Conclusions: These results confirm the occurrence of haemoplasmas and FeVBPs throughout Italy. Preventive measures to protect both animal and human health should be carried out also for owned cats, even if no health status of animals has been assessed in this study.[Figure not available: see fulltext.]

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number116
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - Apr 21 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Bartonella spp.
  • Cat
  • Feline immunodeficiency virus
  • Feline leukemia virus
  • Haemoplasmas
  • Leishmania infantum
  • Vector-borne pathogens
  • Zoonosis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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