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Leishmaniasis - Issue Description

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Issue Description

Canine Leishmania is a zoonotic disease most commonly caused by the bite of an infected Phlebotomus sandfly. Canine Leishmaniasis was first identified in Europe in 1903 and in 1940 it was determined that 40% of all dogs in Rome were positive for Leishmaniasis. Traditionally thought of as a disease only found near the Mediterrean basin, 2008 research claims new findings are evidence that canine leishmaniasis is currently expanding in continental climate areas of northwestern Italy, far from the recognized disease-endemic areas along the Mediterranean coasts. Cases of Leishmaniasis began appearing in North America in 2000, Leishmania positive Foxhounds have been reported in 22 states and 2 provinces of Canada as of 2008.



  • Skin Lesions
  • Alopecia
  • Ulcerative or Exfoliative dermatitis
  • Visceral

  • Swollen Lymphnodes
  • Ocular signs
  • Progressive loss of weight with decreased appetite
  • Epistaxis (nose bleeds)
  • Kidney failure - increased urination and drinking

  • Diagnosis

    In the United States certain breed clubs are strongly recommending screening for Leishmania especially in imported breeding stock from endemic locations. For reasons yet unidentified The Foxhound and Neapolitan Mastiff seem to be predisposed or at higher risk for disease. The Italian Spinone Club of America is also requesting that all breeders and owners submit samples for testing, the club reports that 150 Spinone Italiano have tested positive in the United States.

    In the United States the following veterinary colleges and government bodies assist with testing and treatment of Leishmania positive dogs:

    Iowa State University Dept of Pathology
    North Carolina Center for Disease Control

    The PCR method for the detection of Leishmania DNA is the most sensitive and accurate method for detecting Leishmania. A study completed on Foxhounds whom were tested with PCR showed approximately 20% of the tested dogs positive, the same population tested with anti-body serology (the traditional testing method in the US) showed only 5% positive.

    Diagnosis can be complicated by false positives caused by the Lepto vaccine and false negatives caused by testing methods which lack sufficient sensitivity.



  • Pentavalent antimonials
  • Meglumine antimoniate
  • Amphotericin B
  • Treatment

    L. Donovani

  • Antimonial resistant
  • Polyene antibiotic amphotericin B
  • Given the recent appearance of L.infantum in the United States and the absence of a known vector the CDC recommends euthanasia of infected dogs due to their concerns of spreading the disease and its zoonotic nature. To date no known cases of dog to human transmission have occurred in the United States.

    Prevention and Vaccines

    In areas where the known vector is a sandfly an deltamethrin collars worn by the dog has been proven to be 86% effective. The sandfly is most active at dusk and dawn, keeping your dog indoors during those peak times will help minimize exposure.

    Unfortunatley, there is no one answer for Leishmania prevention nor will one vaccine cover multiple species. Different virulence factors have been identified for distinct Leishmania species, and there are profound differences in the immune mechanisms that mediate susceptibility/resistance to infection and in the pathology associated with disease.

    In 2003 Fort Dodge released the Leshmune Vaccine in Brazil for L.donovani. Studies indicated up to 87% protection. Most common side effects from the vaccine have been noted as anorexia and local swelling. The president of the Brazil Regional Council of Veterinary Medicine, Marcia Villa warns that since vaccinated dogs develop antibodies they can be difficult to distinguish vaccinated dogs from asymptomatic infected dogs. Studies are also indicating that the Leshmune vaccine may be reliable in treating L. Chagasi and a possible treatment for already infected dogs with L.donovani.

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