Hepatozoon species infecting domestic cats from countries of the Mediterranean basin

Mariaelisa Carbonara, Roberta Iatta, Giovanni Sgroi, Elias Papadopoulos, Clara Lima, Emilie Bouhsira, Guadalupe Miró, Yaarit Nachum-Biala, Gad Baneth, Domenico Otranto*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Tick-borne diseases (TBDs) are caused by pathogens of human and veterinary concern representing a major public health issue worldwide. Although feline medicine has progressed much in the recent decades, data on feline TBDs (FeTBDs) remain scant. Therefore, this study aimed to assess the prevalence of apicomplexan parasite infections, associated risk factors and clinical-hematological abnormalities in domestic feline populations from countries of the Mediterranean basin. Blood and serum samples from cats (n = 600) living in France, Greece, Israel, Italy, Portugal and Spain were collected along with animal data (i.e., age, sex, breed, housing conditions and geographical origin), clinical signs and laboratory blood test parameters. Cats were grouped according to their age as kitten (up to one year), young (between one and six years), mature (between seven and ten years) and senior (older than ten years). Blood samples were tested for Hepatozoon spp. and piroplasmids by conventional PCR targeting 18S rRNA gene. The overall prevalence of Hepatozoon spp. infection was 14.5%, being significantly higher in cats from Greece (30%) and Portugal (23%), followed by Spain (15%), Israel (15%) and France (4%). Cats from Italy scored negative. Hepatozoon felis was identified in 86 animals, with three different sequence types and H. silvestris was detected in one shelter cat from Portugal. No piroplasmid DNA was amplified. The risk of Hepatozoon spp. infection was related to feline geographical provenience, housing condition and age. No statistical correlation was reported with any clinical signs, while increased alanine aminotransferase (ALT) activity was the only laboratory abnormality significantly associated (p = 0.03) with the infection. Data suggest a high circulation of H. felis, and only occasionally of H. silvestris, within domestic feline populations in the Mediterranean basin, mainly in shelter or free roaming and young cats with asymptomatic or subclinical infection.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number102192
JournalTicks and Tick-borne Diseases
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 2023

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  • Cats
  • Clinical-pathological findings
  • Hepatozoon felis
  • Hepatozoon silvestris


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