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Cutaneous dirofilariosis is a canine mosquito-borne zoonosis that can cause larva migrans disease in humans. Dirofilaria repens is considered an emerging pathogen occurring with high prevalence in Mediterranean areas and many parts of tropical Asia. In Hong Kong, a second species, Candidatus Dirofilaria hongkongensis, has been reported. The present study aimed to compare mitochondrial genomes from these parasites and to obtain population genetic information.
Complete mitochondrial genomes were obtained by PCR and Sanger sequencing or ILLUMINA sequencing for four worms. Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 sequences identified three as D. repens (all from Europe) and one as C. D. hongkongensis (from India). Mitochondrial genomes have the same organization as in other spirurid nematodes but a higher preference for thymine in the coding strand. Phylogenetic analysis was in contradiction to current taxonomy of the Onchocercidae but in agreement with a recent multi-locus phylogenetic analysis using both mitochondrial and nuclear markers. D. repens and C. D. hongkongensis sequences clustered together and were the common sister group to Dirofilaria immitis. Analysis of a 2.5 kb mitochondrial genome fragment from macrofilaria or canine blood samples from Europe (42), Thailand (2), India (1) and Vietnam (1) revealed only small genetic differences in the D. repens samples including all European and the Vietnam sample. The Indian C. D. hongkongensis and the two Thai samples formed separate clusters and differences were comparatively large.
Genetic differences between Dirofilaria spp. causing cutaneous disease can be considerable whereas D. repens itself was genetically quite homogenous. C. D. hongkongensis was identified for the first time from the Indian subcontinent. The full mitochondrial genome sequence strengthens the hypothesis that it represents an independent species and the Thai samples might represent another cryptic species, Candidatus Dirofilaria sp. 'Thailand II', or a quite divergent population of C. D. hongkongensis.