Objective—To develop and evaluate a rapid and accurate assay involving PCR amplification and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry of nucleic acid extracts from whole blood samples for the detection of Dirofilaria immitis infection in dogs.
Sample—Whole blood nucleic acid extracts from 29 dogs experimentally infected with D immitis (and in which circulating D immitis antigen was detected) and 10 uninfected dogs.
Procedures—16 of the 29 whole blood samples from infected dogs were examined at the time of collection for circulating microfilaria. Nucleic acids were extracted from all whole blood specimens and underwent PCR amplification with 12 PCR primer pairs designed to detect a wide range of pathogens (including the Wolbachia endosymbiont of D immitis) and electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.
Results—On the basis of assay results, heartworm infection was detected in 13 of 13 antigen-positive dogs of unknown microfilaria status, 11 of 11 antigen-positive dogs with circulating microfilaria, 0 of 3 antigen-positive dogs tested at 3 months after larval infection, 0 of 2 antigen-positive dogs with occult infections, and 0 of 10 uninfected dogs.
Conclusions and Clinical Relevance—With the assay under investigation, it was possible to identify D immitis infection in dogs with circulating microfilaria via detection of the obligate Wolbachia endosymbiont of D immitis. It was not possible to identify dogs with occult infections, which suggested that circulating microfilaria must be present to detect infection with this assay, although further studies would be required to verify that finding.