Dirofilaria immitis, the heartworm or dog heartworm, is a parasitic roundworm that is a type of filarial worm, a small thread-like worm, that causes dirofilariasis.
Dirofilaria immitis is commonly called the “heartworm”; however, adults often reside in the pulmonary arterial system (lung arteries), as well as the heart, and a major effect on the health for the animal is a manifestation of damage to the lung vessels and tissues. In cases involving heavy worm burden, adult heartworms may migrate to the right heart and the pulmonary artery. Heartworm infection may result in serious complications for the host, typically culminating in the host’s death, most often as the result of secondary congestive heart failure.
• In animals, the larvae eventually mature into adult heartworms. They can then cause dirofilariasis, a full-blown infection that can cause blockage of major arteries or organ infections.
• In humans, heartworm larvae never fully mature. As young heartworms die, your body reacts to their tissue with inflammation as it tries to destroy the heartworms. This condition is known as pulmonary dirofilariasis.
SYMPTOMS AND SIGNS : Heartworm infections in humans can include:
• Abnormal cough
• Coughing up blood
• Pain in your chest
• Buildup of fluid around your lungs (Pleural Effusion)
• Round lesions that show up on chest X-Rays (“Coin” Lesions)
TREATMENT : Heartworms don’t live long in human blood, so you won’t need to have heartworms removed through either medication or surgery. Treatment for heartworms addresses any granulomas that appear on an imaging test that may have resulted from dead heartworm tissue buildup in your arteries.If a granuloma isn’t causing any symptoms or blockage in your arteries, you probably won’t need any further treatment.If your doctor suspects that a granuloma may be cancerous or the result of another, more serious condition, they’ll likely take a tissue sample (biopsy).
To take a tissue sample, your doctor may use one of these methods:
• Lung needle biopsy. Your doctor inserts a thin needle through your chest tissues in your lungs.
• Bronchoscopy. Your doctor inserts a lighted scope through your mouth into your lungs.
• Mediastinoscopy. Your doctor inserts a lighted scope through a small cut in your skin into the mediastinum, an area between the lungs.