The heartworm Dirofilaria immitis is the causative agent of dirofilariasis in dogs. Studies have shown that parasite-derived cell-free DNA (cfDNA) can be detected in host blood and may be a promising diagnostic marker for parasitic infections. Thus, our aim was to detect D. immitis-derived cfDNA in host serum by nested PCR. Sera were collected from 12 dogs with natural D. immitis infections; eight were microfilaria (mf)-positive, and the remaining four were mf-negative. Culture fluids derived from single-sex adult D. immitis worms (mf-producing females and males) were also tested for cfDNA. All mf-positive sera were positive by nested PCR, whereas no amplification products were detected in mf-negative sera. The culture fluid of mf-producing females was positive by nested PCR but that of males was negative. All products amplified by nested PCR were sequenced to confirm that the amplicons were those of D. immitis. These results indicate that D. immitis DNA circulates freely in dog serum, except in mf-negative dogs. Additionally, D. immitis cfDNA may primarily be derived from the mf, and adult worms appeared to be minor contributors of cfDNA concentrations in serum; however, the contribution of D. immitis cfDNA derived from larvae of other developmental stages is unclear. An evaluation of the kinetics of D. immitis cfDNA in host serum throughout the parasite life cycle could facilitate the development of early molecular diagnostic techniques. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report of the detection of mitochondrial DNA from a filarial parasite in host serum.
Cell-free DNA co1 Dirofilaria immitisHeartworm Nested PCR
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This work was financially supported in part by a Grant-in-Aid for Scientific Research (No. 26450484) from the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Strategic Research Base Development Program for Private Universities sponsored by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of Japan (S1491007). The authors thank Mami Kato at Nihon University for her assistance with the experiments.
Conflict of interest
The authors declare that they have no competing interest.
Compliance with ethical standards
All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.
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