The Presence of Dirofilaria immitis in Domestic Dogs on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Figure 1. Close contact between dogs and Galapagos sea lions.


This study’s concept was outlined around the principle of conservation medicine in a biodiversity hotspot from the Neotropical realm: the Galapagos Islands. The wildlife balance has been modified by multi-host parasites introduced with some domestic animals (dogs and cats). The endemic and endangered species, the Galapagos sea lion (GSL, Zalophus wollebaeki), has been exposed to pathogens of canine and feline origin that could become a significant conservation problem for this species. One of these potential cases is the filarial heartworm infection, Dirofilaria immitis, which has been reported on other pinnipeds, with fatalities and clinical symptoms. Therefore, this study evaluated the presence of the microfilaria of D. immitis in dogs from Puerto Baquerizo Moreno, San Cristobal Island, where the largest rookery of GSLs lives and where the proximity to domestic dogs is the most intimate compared to other rookeries of the archipelago. Between July and September 2021, 587 blood samples were collected from owned dogs of Puerto Baquerizo Moreno. Overall, 10 dogs (1.7%) were positive for the presence of the microfilaria of D. immitis with a confidence interval of 0.7%–2.8%. No other filarial species were identified. Significant differences in prevalence between different dog categories were observed only for the age (p = 0.001). This study represents the first report of D. immitis, the agent of canine heartworm disease, in dogs from San Cristobal Island. Hence, the presence of the microfilaria of D. immitis in the blood of dogs could increase the risk of infection to which the GSL is exposed in the region.

Keywords: Dirofilaria immitis; domestic dogs; canine heartworm disease; zoonoses; San Cristobal Island

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In 2022, the Galapagos Science Center (GSC) and the broader UNC & USFQ Galapagos Initiative will celebrate its 10th Anniversary. We are proud to announce the World Summit on Island Sustainability scheduled to be held on June 26–30, 2022 at the Galapagos Science Center and the Community Convention Center on San Cristobal Island.

The content of the World Summit will be distributed globally through social media and results documented through papers published in a book written as part of the Galapagos Book Series by Springer Nature and edited by Steve Walsh (UNC) & Carlos Mena (USFQ) as well as Jill Stewart (UNC) and Juan Pablo Muñoz (GSC/USC). The book will be inclusive and accessible by the broader island community including scientists, managers, residents, tourists, and government and non-government organizations.

While the most obvious goal of organizing the World Summit on Island Sustainability is to celebrate the 10th Anniversary of the GSC and the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, other goals will be addressed through special opportunities created as part of our operational planning of the World Summit.

For instance, we seek to elevate and highlight the Galapagos in the island conservation discourse, seeking to interact with other island networks in more obvious and conspicuous ways to benefit the Galapagos Islands, the UNC-USFQ Galapagos Initiative, and the world. We will seize the opportunity to further develop the I2N2 – International Islands Network-of-Networks. Further, we wish to highlight and emphasize multiple visions of a sustainable future for the Galapagos Islands and we cannot do this alone. Therefore, engaging the Ecuadorian Ministry of Environment, the Ministry of Tourism, the Government Council of Galapagos, the Galapagos National Park, and local Galapagos authorities, including government and non-government organizations and local citizen groups, is imperative.

The Galapagos Science Center on San Cristobal Island, Galapagos

Borrowing from Hawaii’s and Guam’s Green Growth Program and the Global Island Partnership, we wish to examine existing global programs that emphasize island sustainability and their incorporation into life, policies, and circumstances in the Galapagos Islands. We will also seek to enhance our connections with the institutional members of our International Galapagos Science Consortium and expand the Consortium through the recruitment of other member institutions. We will also work to benefit islands and their local communities by working with citizen groups as well as important NGOs who seek to improve the natural conditions in the Galapagos and diminish the impact of the human dimension on the future of Galapagos’ ecosystems.

Lastly, we will use the World Summit to benefit UNC & USFQ and our constituencies through a strong and vibrant communication plan about the World Summit, creating corporate relationships as sponsors, identifying funding goals through donors, and benefiting our study abroad program for student engagement in the Galapagos Islands. We plan to develop and issue a Galapagos Sustainability Communique after the World Summit that includes the vision and insights of all its participants for a sustainable Galapagos with applicability to global island settings.

We are eager to hear your perspective and have you join us at the World Summit on Island Sustainability!