Biology - Life Cycle of D. immitis
During a blood meal, an infected mosquito (Aedes, Culex, Anopheles, Mansonia) introduces third-stage filarial larvae of Dirofilaria immitis into the skin of the definitive host, which is usually a domestic dog or coyote in the United States (although a wide variety of other animals can also be infected, including felids, mustelids, pinnipeds, beaver, horses, and humans), where they penetrate into the bite wound . In the definitive host, the L3 larvae undergo two more molts into L4 and adults. Adults reside in pulmonary arteries, and are occasionally found in the right ventricle of the heart . Adult females are usually 230-310 mm long by 350 µm wide; males are usually 120-190 mm long by 300 µm wide. Adults can live for 5 – 10 years. In the heart, the female worms are capable of producing microfilariae over their lifespan. The microfilariae are found in peripheral blood . A mosquito ingests the microfilariae during a blood meal . After ingestion, the microfilariae migrate from the mosquito’s midgut through the hemocoel to the Malpighian tubules in the abdomen . There the microfilariae develop into first-stage larvae and subsequently into third-stage infective larvae . The third-stage infective larvae migrate to the mosquito’s proboscis and can infect another definitive host when it takes a blood meal . In humans , D. immitis larvae tend to follow the same migratory pathway as in the canine host, ending up in the lungs, where they often lodge in small-caliber vessels, causing infarcts and typical “coin lesions” visible on radiographs.
Life cycle image and information courtesy of DPDx.