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TDK conference 2022

Morphological and molecular analyses of flies and blood-sucking lice of veterinary importance from Malta
Cini Bruno Andrea Marie - year 5
University of Veterinary Medicine Budapest, Department of Parasitology and Zoology
Supervisor: Dr. Sándor Hornok


In order to obtain new data on the occurrence and potential vector role of flies and blood-sucking lice of veterinary importance in Malta, ectoparasites were collected at cattle, sheep and goat farms, near pigs and dogs, as well as in two places in the absence of domestic animals using bait traps. Altogether 3095 flies (Diptera: Muscidae, Calliphoridae) were collected at farms and kennels near domestic animals, as well as 37 blowflies (Calliphoridae) in rural and urban areas without animals nearby. Regarding Muscidae, the great majority of flies (n = 3084) were identified as the common housefly Musca domestica. Eight flies represented the stable fly Stomoxys calcitrans. Three blowflies associated with dogs and small ruminants belonged to Lucilia cuprina. By contrast, all 37 blowflies collected with bait traps, without domestic animals nearby, were identified as L. sericata. In addition, sucking lice (n=22) belonged to Linognathus africanus. Molecular identification of 28 specimens confirmed these results.

Considering the sex ratio of M. domestica among samples collected randomly at cattle farms, females predominated in the whole study period, but the abundance of males increased significantly towards the autumn. Stomoxys calcitrans was associated with cattle and dogs, whereas L. cuprina was found near small ruminants and dogs. Pathogen screening demonstrated the presence of a rickettsia closely related to Rickettsia hoogstraalii, as well as of a Moraxella and a Neisseria sp. in L. africanus.

To our knowledge, this is the first study focusing on the molecular analysis of flies and lice of veterinary-medical importance in Malta. The most important finding of this study is the first evidence for the autochthonous occurrence of L. cuprina in Malta. Owing to the preference of L. cuprina for warmer climate, it is unlikely that it will establish north of Mediterranean Basin, but consequent to its emergence in several parts of southern Europe (now including Malta), probably it will become well-established in the latter region. While L. cuprina was exclusively found near domestic animals in Malta, in other types of rural and urban locations only L. sericata could be collected with bait traps. This may be related to differences in their habitat preference. Based on the sucking-louse burden in the examined goat herds, the situation in Malta was similar to northern Africa where the exclusive presence of L. africanus was reported, unlike towards the north in the Mediterranean Basin where populations of this species are mixed with L. stenopsis. Based on the molecular evidence of bacteria not detected before in L. africanus, its bacteriome deserves further evaluation in the near future.

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