Background: Due to the complexity of retrieving skin-dwelling microfilariae, filarioids of dogs presenting dermal microfilariae (e.g. Cercopithifilaria spp., Onchocerca lupi) are relatively unknown compared to Dirofilaria spp. and Acanthocheilonema spp. whose microfilariae circulate in the blood. Although Cercopithifilaria spp. and O. lupi filarioids are distributed worldwide, there is a paucity of information on their occurrence in Iran. The aim of this study was to investigate these filarioids in a large population of dogs from different regions of Iran. Methods: From October 2018 to September 2020, skin biopsies were obtained from dogs housed in shelters (n = 557) and privately owned dogs (n = 26) in seven provinces of Iran (Hamedan, Kermanshah, Yazd, Mazandaran, Khuzestan, Lorestan, Esfahan), as well as from three road-killed jackals (Canis aureus) and three cats (Felis catus) in Hamedan province. The skin biopsies were first soaked in saline solution at room temperature overnight, and examined for dermal microfilariae under the microscope. Positive skin specimens and sediments were tested by PCR for a 304-bp region of the mitochondrial cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (cox1) gene and amplicons were sequenced. Results: Microfilariae of Cercopithifilaria spp. were found in skin biopsies of 32 of the 583 (5.5%) dogs tested, with infection rates of up to 25% in Kermanshah. No microfilariae were recovered from skin biopsy samples collected from dogs in Khorramabad and Ahvaz, nor from the examined jackals and cats. None of the privately owned dogs were found to be infected. Morphologic and morphometric characteristics of the microfilariae were consistent with C. bainae. Eighteen skin samples were positive for the cox1 gene, of which 15 sequences showed a nucleotide identity of 100% and three of 93.4% with the reference sequence of C. bainae available in GenBank (haplotype I; GenBank accession number: JF461457). Conclusions: The data from this study broadens current knowledge on the geographical distribution of C. bainae in dogs in Middle Eastern countries. Further studies on different wild canine species in the country (e.g. jackal, fox, wolf) could provide further information on the epidemiology of these filarioids. A particular focus should be put on zoonotic O. lupi given the reports of its presence in human patients from this country. Graphical Abstract: [Figure not available: see fulltext.]
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