Background: Ophionyssus natricis is the main species of mite that infests captive reptiles. High infestations may result in the host experiencing general discomfort and deleterious effects, even death. Moreover, O. natricis is an important vector of reptile vector-borne diseases and is considered to be the putative vector of the Reptarenavirus, the causal agent of the inclusion body disease. Despite the cosmopolitan distribution of O. natricis in captive reptiles, treatment options are limited. The aim of the present study was to assess the efficacy of afoxolaner (NexGard®; Boehringer Ingelheim, Ingelheim, Germany) in heavily infested, privately owned snakes, evaluate the prevalence of mites and drug availability in the plasma of treated snakes (pharmacokinetics) and perform a clinical examination of animals. Methods: The study was conducted in two snake breeding facilities, where many snakes were infested with mites. Each animal was clinically examined and weighed, and mite infestations were assessed on the animals and in their enclosures (environment). Animals were treated with a dose of 2.5 mg afoxolaner per kilogram body weight (2.5 mg/kg) administered orally. All animals were examined pre-treatment (T0) and at various time points post-treatment (T1, 6 h; T2, 24 h; T3, 14 days; T4, 28 days). The collected mites were morphologically identified at the species level and the species identity also confirmed molecularly. Results: Overall, 81 snakes from the two participating facilities (i.e. 70 from site 1 and 11 from site 2) were screened, and 31 (38.3%) snakes were found to have at least one mite. All mites were identified morphologically and molecularly as O. natricis. Lampropeltis was the genus of snakes with highest number of infested individuals. Mites were found to be alive on snakes at T1, but at T2 only dead mites were observed, and at T3 and T4 mites were no longer present on the animals or in their environment. No side effects were observed in the treated snakes. Conclusions: A single oral administration of afoxolaner at 2.5 mg/kg was a safe treatment for snakes and 100% effective for the eradication of natural O. natricis infestation without the need to treat the environment of the snake.
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