Indexed on: 25 Sep '20Published on: 26 Aug '19Published in: Veterinary Parasitology
Visceral leishmaniasis is a zoonotic disease caused by Leishmania infantum for which dogs are the main reservoir. In South America, presence of this disease is expanding along with increasing dispersion of its principal vector, the sand-fly Lutzomyia longipalpis. Feline leishmaniasis is an emerging disease in domestic cats, but epidemiological studies in endemic areas of the Amazon region of Brazil are scarce and the role of cats as reservoirs of L. infantum has been debated. The aim of this study was to investigate L. infantum infection in cats living in the Amazon biome region, using serological and molecular methods. A total of 105 cats were subjected to clinical examination and blood samples were taken for immunofluorescent-antibody (IFAT) serological evaluation, to determine anti-Leishmania antibody titers. Conventional PCR and Sanger's sequencing targeting L. infantum chitinase and Leishmania species ribosomal internal transcribed spacer (ITS-1) encoding genes were performed on conjunctival swabs from these cats. Seropositivity was detected in 32 animals (30.48%), thus confirming that contact between these cats and the parasite was occurring. PCR followed by amplicon sequencing showed that three samples (2.86%) were positive for a chitinase gene and six (5.71%) were positive for the ITS-1 gene. Parasite-positive diagnoses presented a statistically significant association with free access to the streets (p = 0.0111), cohabitation with dogs affected previously by VL (p = 0.0006) and absence of backyard cleaning and garbage collection (p = 0.00003). These results emphasize that cats should be included in epidemiological surveys of leishmaniasis, especially in endemic areas, if not as the reservoir host (unproven), at least as a "sentinel host" that is useful for revealing situations of endemic circulation of L. infantum. Moreover, in these areas, feline leishmaniasis needs to be considered in the differential diagnosis among domestic cats presenting alopecia, rarefied hair, lacerations and ulcerative dermatitis. Copyright © 2019 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.