Toepp AJ, Schaut RG, Scott BD, Mathur D, Berens AJ, Petersen CA


Leishmania is the causative agent of leishmaniasis, a deadly protozoan disease which affects over 1 million people each year. Autochthonous cases of canine leishmaniasis are generally associated with tropical and subtropical climatic zones. However, in 1999, U.S. hunting dogs were found to have leishmaniasis with no history of travel outside the country. Transmission of this disease was found to be primarily vertical. In endemic areas, dogs are a dominant domestic reservoir host for Leishmania infantum. This study evaluated L. infantum infection prevalence and incidence within US dogs tested over a nine-year span (2007-2015). This investigation used both passive and active surveillance, following an initial outbreak investigation by the Centers for Disease Control. L. infantum infection incidence and prevalence over time and across regions were examined to evaluate whether transmission was sufficient to maintain ongoing infection within this population. These studies also established whether this disease is becoming more or less prominent within this reservoir host, dogs. There was no significant difference between prevalence and incidence rates via as measured by passive vs. active surveillance. Although due to fluctuations in sample submission there were significant changes in both incidence and prevalence of L. infantum in US hunting dogs over this nine year span, these differences were not outside of the interquartile range and therefore there is likely to be a steady-state of transmission within U.S. dogs. Based on these findings, if vertical transmission is the primary means of L. infantum spread in U.S. dogs, with appropriate husbandry and infection control procedures, elimination of L. infantum from US dogs could be possible.

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