Volume 20, Number 2—February 2014
From the Latin dīrus (“fearful” or “ominous”) + fīlum (“thread”), Dirofilaria is a genus of nematodes of the superfamily Filarioidea. The first known description of Dirofilaria may have been by Italian nobleman Francesco Birago in 1626 in his Treatise on Hunting: “The dog generates two worms, which are half an arm’s length long and thicker than a finger and red like fire.” Birago erroneously identified the worms as a larval stage of another parasite, Dioctophyme renale. The dog heartworm was named Filaria by American parasitologist Joseph Leidy in 1856, and the genus was renamed Dirofilaria by French parasitologists Railliet and Henry in 1911.
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