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Strongyloides stercoralis infection in imported and local dogs in Switzerland: from clinics to molecular genetics

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Strongyloides stercoralis is a worldwide-distributed intestinal nematode affecting mainly humans and dogs. Canine strongyloidosis is generally characterised by diarrhoea, malabsorption and bronchopneumonia, and may be fatal in cases of impaired immunity. In recent years, molecular and epidemiological studies suggested that host-adapted populations of S. stercoralis with different zoonotic potential may exist. Clinical and subclinical cases of S. stercoralis infection have been increasingly diagnosed in imported (France, Belgium, Bulgaria) and locally born dogs in Switzerland, showing that this parasite is currently circulating in Europe. Three of these clinical cases will be described here. All three dogs presented severe disease, characterised by harsh diarrhoea, dehydration, vomiting, respiratory and/or neurologic signs, and needed intensive care and hospitalisation. One of these dogs was related to a Swiss breeding kennel, in which the infection was subsequently diagnosed in several other dogs. Faeces were analysed by three coproscopical methods including (i) the Baermann technique, which consistently identified the typical S. stercoralis first-stage larvae in both clinical and subclinical infections, (ii) the sedimentation-zinc chloride flotation and (iii) sodium acetate—acetic acid—formalin concentration (SAFC) methods, which allowed the additional identification of parasitic females and/or eggs in two of the clinical cases. Interestingly, S. stercoralis isolated from all three independent clinical cases exhibited an identical genetic background on the nuclear 18S rDNA (fragment involving hypervariable regions I and IV) and the mitochondrial cytochrome oxidase subunit I (cox1) loci, similar to that of zoonotic isolates from other geographical regions, and not to that of dog-adapted variants. Due to the clinical relevance and zoonotic potential of this parasite, the awareness of both diagnosticians and clinicians is strongly required.

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We would like to acknowledge Liliane Krähenbühl, Larissa Hofmann and Christine Salvisberg for their excellent technical assistance and the dogs’ owners for their cooperation.


This study was supported by the Institute of Parasitology of the University of Bern.

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Correspondence to Walter Basso.

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Basso, W., Grandt, LM., Magnenat, AL. et al. Strongyloides stercoralis infection in imported and local dogs in Switzerland: from clinics to molecular genetics. Parasitol Res 118, 255–266 (2019).

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