Heartworm infection (also known as dirofilariosis due to Dirofilaria immitis) in dogs causes chronic pulmonary disease that, if left untreated, can lead to right-side congestive heart failure. Currently, the only registered drug for adulticide therapy in dogs with heartworm disease (HWD) is melarsomine dihydrochloride. The recent targeting of the bacterial endosymbiont Wolbachia, through antibiotic therapy of the infected host, has offered an interesting alternative for the treatment of HWD. Recent reports of the adulticide activity of an ivermectin/doxycycline combination protocol has lead the American Heartworm Society (AHS) to include in its guidelines that, in cases where arsenical therapy is not possible or is contraindicated, a monthly heartworm preventive along with doxycycline for a 4-week period might be considered. In the present study, 20 dogs with confirmed natural D. immitis infection were included following owner consent. Fourteen dogs were treated with a topical formulation containing 10% w/v imidacloprid and 2.5% w/v moxidectin (Advocate®, Advantage Multi®, Bayer), monthly for nine months, associated to doxycycline (10 mg/kg/BID) for the first 30 days. Six dogs were treated with melarsomine (Immiticide®, Merial) (2.5 mg/kg) at enrollment, followed one month later by two injections 24 h apart. The presence of circulating antigens and the number of microfilariae (mf) were evaluated at the moment of enrollment and then at 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 12, 18, 24 months post enrollment. Echocardiogram and radiographs were performed at month 0, 6, 12, 18, 24. Monthly moxidectin combined with 30 days of doxycycline eliminated circulating microfilariae within one month, thus breaking the transmission cycle very quickly. Furthermore, dogs treated with the combination protocol started to become negative for circulating antigens at 4 months from the beginning of treatment and all except one were antigen negative at 9 months. All dogs treated with melarsomine were antigen negative by 5 months from the beginning of the treatment. No dogs showed worsening of pulmonary patterns or criteria indicative of pulmonary hypertension 12 to 24 months after. For the criteria mf concentration, antigen concentration, radiography and echocardiography at 12, 18 and 24 months the non-inferiority for the moxidectin group could be proven for a non-inferiority margin of 15% for the rate difference. Dogs treated with moxidectin and doxycycline became negative for microfilariae and antigens sooner when compared to melarsomine in the present study and to dogs treated with doxycycline combined with ivermectin in studies previously published.
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