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Feline vector-borne pathogens in the north and centre of Portugal

Hugo Vilhena12, Verónica L Martinez-Díaz3, Luís Cardoso45*, Lisete Vieira4, Laura Altet6, Olga Francino6, Josep Pastor7 and Ana C Silvestre-Ferreira4

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Veterinary Medicine, Escola Universitária Vasco da Gama, Coimbra, Portugal

2 Baixo Vouga Veterinary Hospital, Águeda, Portugal

3 Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Agrigenomics Research Centre (CRAG), Veterinary Faculty, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain

4 Department of Veterinary Sciences, School of Agrarian and Veterinary Sciences, Universidade de Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro, Vila Real, Portugal

5 Parasite Disease Group, Instituto de Biologia Molecular e Celular (IBMC), Universidade do Porto, Oporto, Portugal

6 Veterinary Service for Molecular Genetics, Department of Animal and Food Sciences, Veterinary Faculty, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain

7 Department of Animal Medicine and Surgery, Veterinary Faculty, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Bellaterra (Barcelona), Spain

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:99  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-99

Published: 15 April 2013



In recent years, several clinical cases and epidemiological studies of feline vector-borne diseases (FVBD) have been reported worldwide. Nonetheless, information on FVBD agents and their prevalence in Portugal is scarce.


Three-hundred and twenty domestic cats presented to 30 veterinary medical centres in the north and centre regions of Portugal were randomly sampled. Blood was assayed by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) for genera Anaplasma/Ehrlichia, genus Babesia, Hepatozoon canis, Hepatozoon felis, Leishmania infantum and the genus Rickettsia. Babesia-positive samples were further tested for Babesia canis and Babesia vogeli.


Eighty (25.0%) out of the 320 cats were positive to at least one vector-borne agent, including seven (2.2%) cats co-infected with two agents. Two cats (0.6%) were infected with Anaplasma/Ehrlichia spp., four (1.3%) with B. canis, 26 (8.1%) with B. vogeli, 50 (15.6%) with H. felis, one (0.3%) with L. infantum and four (1.3%) with Rickettsia spp. No cat tested positive for H. canis. One cat (0.3%) was co-infected with B. canis and B. vogeli, three (0.9%) with B. vogeli and H. felis, one (0.3%) with H. felis and L. infantum, and two (0.6%) with H. felis and Rickettsia spp.


A considerable prevalence of infection with vector-borne pathogens among the domestic feline population of the north and centre of Portugal has been revealed by the present study. Additionally, this is the first detection of B. vogeli in cats from Europe and of H. felis in cats from Portugal.

Cats; Feline vector-borne diseases; PCR; Portugal