January 21, 2010
January 21 - Dirofilaria immitis
Heartworm, Dirofilaria immitis, is a filarial nematode parasite that usually infects dogs or other canines, but can also infect cats, foxes, ferrets, and sea lions. The adult worms live in the right ventricle of the heart, hence their common name. After the adults mate, they produce microscopic larvae known as microfilariae, which are ingested by mosquitos when they bite the mammalian host. The larvae complete their development in the mosquito and then are transmitted to a new host when she feeds again. Although most dogs do not show signs of infection, in some cases worms can cause issues and need to be treated. However the treatments are sometimes risky because the dead worms can get carried to the lungs and cause respiratory distress or failure. Preventative therapies, such as giving dogs the drug ivermectin, are effective and safe. Heartworm are also hosts to the endosymbiotic bacteria, Wolbachia (see January 12th).
Image from this website.