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Occurrence and diversity of arthropod-transmitted pathogens in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in western Austria, and possible vertical (transplacental) transmission of Hepatozoon canis



Red fox (Vulpes vulpes) is the most abundant wild canid species in Austria, and it is a well-known carrier of many pathogens of medical and veterinary concern. The main aim of the present study was to investigate the occurrence and diversity of protozoan, bacterial and filarial parasites transmitted by blood-feeding arthropods in a red fox population in western Austria. Blood (n = 351) and spleen (n = 506) samples from foxes were examined by PCR and sequencing and the following pathogens were identified: Babesia canis, Babesia cf. microti (syn. Theileria annae), Hepatozoon canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum, Candidatus Neoehrlichia sp. and Bartonella rochalimae. Blood was shown to be more suitable for detection of Babesia cf. microti, whilst the spleen tissue was better for detection of H. canis than blood. Moreover, extremely low genetic variability of H. canis and its relatively low prevalence rate observed in this study may suggest that the parasite has only recently been introduced in the sampled area. Furthermore, the data presented here demonstrates, for the first time, the possible vertical transmission of H. canis from an infected vixen to the offspring, and this could explain the very high prevalence in areas considered free of its main tick vector(s).


Corresponding author

*Corresponding author: Department of Pathobiology, Institute of Parasitology, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, Veterinaerplatz 1, 1210 Vienna, Austria. Email:


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Occurrence and diversity of arthropod-transmitted pathogens in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) in western Austria, and possible vertical (transplacental) transmission of Hepatozoon canis



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