The increasing focus on infections in domestic cats (Felis catus) has raised questions about lungworm distribution in wild hosts. To enhance knowledge of the occurrence of lungworms in enzootic regions of central Italy, we examined the carcasses of 16 European wildcats (Felis silvestris silvestris). Adult nematodes, feces, respiratory flushings, and pulmonary tissues were collected at necropsy and then microscopically and genetically analyzed. Fourteen wildcats had single or mixed lungworm species. Aelurostrongylus abstrusus was the most common parasite retrieved, followed by Troglostrongylus brevior. In addition, three specimens of Angiostrongylus chabaudi were found in the pulmonary arteries of one wildcat. Histologically, the most common lesions were a mild-to-severe chronic catarrhal bronchitis and a chronic interstitial pneumonia with smooth muscle hypertrophy, associated with T. brevior and A. abstrusus, respectively. These results demonstrate that the European wildcats may harbor several species of lungworms that may impair their health and welfare. Also, F. s. silvestris is a potential reservoir for respiratory nematodes in domestic cats.
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Vol. 52 • No. 2