Leishmania spp

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Multiple and coalescent reddish nodular lesions on the rostral portion of the tongue caused by Leishmania spp[1]
Typical leishmaniasis cutaneous ulcer in the anterior limb of a five year old female mongrel dog associated with Leishmania infantum infection[2]
Bone marrow from a dog with leishmaniasis. Numerous amastigotes, with a round nucleus and flat kinetoplast, are present within the cytoplasm of a macrophage (Wright-Leishman stain).

Leishmania (Viannia) spp are a worldwide zoonotic intraerythrocytic diphasic protozoan parasite which causes canine leishmaniasis.

The disease is endemic in many parts of the world including Central and South America, Africa, India, and the Mediterranean basin. In many of the endemic areas, dogs are considered the major reservoir for human disease[3]. Coinfections with other parasites such as Trypanosoma spp have been reported[4].

The primary vector is ''Lutzomyia longipalpis and the dog is the main domestic reservoir[5].

Concurrent transmissible venereal tumors is common in endemic areas.

Species which are pathogenic to dogs include:

  • Leishmania infantum chigasi (Leishmanis donovani complex)[6][7][8][9]
  • Leishmania guyanensis[10]
  • Leishmania braziliensis[11]
  • Leishmania peruviana
  • Leishmania panamensis[12]
  • Leishmania colombiensis[13]

Transmission is by sand flies - Phlebotomus spp, Lutzomyia spp, Sergentomyia spp.

Leishmania spp cycle between vertebrate hosts and sand fly vectors in either the promastigote or amastigote form. Both stages are capable of replication via binary fission but not within the same host[14]. Low parasite numbers are common in chronic cases, where infected macrophages or individual amastigotes enter the systemic circulation and slowly disseminate to visceral organs leading to internal disease.

Clinical signs are usually apparent in older dogs (> 3 years of age). IgG1 appears to correlate with clinical disease while asymptomatic dogs have higher IgG2 antibody levels[15].

Symptoms include skin lesions dermatitis, blepharitis, stomatitis, lethargy, anorexia, epistaxis, weight loss, fever, local or generalized lymphadenopathy, osteomyelitis, hepatosplenomegaly and prostatitis[16]. Articular involvement is also fairly common and may present as lameness with swollen joints or simply as a stiff gait.

Less common clinical symptoms include protozoal polyradiculoneuritis, uveitis, chronic diarrhea and long, deformed brittle nails referred to as onychogryphosis.

Laboratory analysis usually reveals hyperglobulinemia, often in conjunction with hypoalbuminemia. Serum protein electrophoresis commonly reveals a polyclonal gammopathy consisting primarily of IgG immunoglobulins and some acute phase proteins. This can be confused with plasmacytoma or ehrlichiosis. Proteinuria and hematuria are fairly common, associated with an underlying glomerulonephritis, which if present, is often fatal. Also commonly observed is elevated ALT and alanine aminotransferase[17].

Diagnosis is based on presenting clinical signs, demonstration of Leishmania spp amastigotes in biopsies of blood, bone marrow, lymph node, spleen, skin or other tissues. Definitive testing requires Immunofluorescent antibody (IFA)[18], ELISA[19] or PCR assays[20].

Treatment may be successful with:

The recent preventive vaccination of dogs in Brazil has led to a reduction in the incidence of canine and human disease[25].


  1. Viegas C et al (2012) Tongue nodules in canine leishmaniosis - a case report. Parasit Vectors 5:120
  2. Cavalcanti A et al (2012) Canine cutaneous leishmaniasis caused by neotropical Leishmania infantum despite of systemic disease: A case report. Parasitol Int 61(4):738-740
  3. Santaella J et al (2011) Leishmania (Viannia) infection in the domestic dog in Chaparral, Colombia. Am J Trop Med Hyg 84(5):674-680
  4. Castro EA et al (2007) Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis: epidemiology of canine cutaneous leishmaniasis in the State of Paraná (Brazil). Exp Parasitol 117(1):13-21
  5. Accioly MP et al' (2012) Leishmanicidal activity in vitro of Musa paradisiaca L. and Spondias mombin L. fractions. Vet Parasitol 187(1-2):79-84
  6. Martínez-Subiela S, Tecles F, Eckersall PD, Cerón JJ (2002) Serum concentrations of acute phase proteins in dogs with leishmaniasis. Vet Rec 150:241-244
  7. Grosjean NL, Vrable RA, Murphy AJ, Mansfield LS (2003) Seroprevalence of antibodies against Leishmania spp among dogs in the United States. J Am Vet Med Assoc 222:603-606
  8. Slappendel RJ, Ferrer L. (1998) In: Greene CE: Infectious Diseases of the Dog and Cat. WB Saunders Co, Philadelphia, pp:450-458
  9. Missawa NA et al' (2011) Evidence of transmission of visceral leishmaniasis by Lutzomyia cruzi in the municipality of Jaciara, State of Mato Grosso, Brazil. Rev Soc Bras Med Trop 44(1):76-78
  10. Delgado O et al (1997) Cutaneous leishmaniasis in Venezuela caused by infection with a new hybrid between Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis and L. (V.) guyanensis. Mem Inst Oswaldo Cruz 92:581–582
  11. Parrado R et al (2011) Prevalence of Leishmania spp. infection in domestic dogs in Chapare, Bolivia. Vet Parasitol 177(1-2):171-174
  12. Rodriguez-Barraquer I et al (2008) Etiologic agent of an epidemic of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Tolima, Colombia. Am J Trop Med Hyg 78:276–282
  13. Reithinger R & Davies CR (1999) Is the domestic dog (Canis familiaris) a reservoir host of American cutaneous leishmaniasis? A critical review of the current evidence. Am J Trop Med Hyg 61:530–541
  14. Moreno P, Lucena R, Ginel PJ (1998) Evaluation of primary haemostasis in canine leishmaniasis. Vet Rec 142:81-83
  15. Ribeiro FC et al (2007) Use of ELISA employing Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis and Leishmania (Leishmania) chagasi antigens for the detection of IgG and IgG1 and IgG2 subclasses in the diagnosis of American tegumentary leishmaniasis in dogs. Vet Parasitol 148(3-4):200-206
  16. Mir F et al (2012) Subclinical leishmaniasis associated with infertility and chronic prostatitis in a dog. J Small Anim Pract 53(7):419-422
  17. http://www.cvm.okstate.edu/instruction/kocan/vpar5333/5333iig.htm.
  18. Massunari GK et al (2009) A serological and molecular investigation of American cutaneous leishmaniasis in dogs, three years after an outbreak in the Northwest of Paraná State, Brazil. Cad Saude Publica 25(1):97-104
  19. Padilla AM et al (2002) Canine infection and the possible role of dogs in the transmission of American tegumentary leishmaniosis in Salta, Argentina. Vet Parasitol 110:1–10
  20. Reithinger R et al (2003) Evaluation of PCR as a diagnostic mass-screening tool to detect Leishmania (Viannia) spp. in domestic dogs (Canis familiaris). J Clin Microbiol 41:1486–1493
  21. Eddlestone SM (2000) Visceral leishmaniasis in a dog from Maryland. J Am Vet Med Assoc 217:1686-1688
  22. Vélez ID et al (2012) An epidemic outbreak of canine cutaneous leishmaniasis in Colombia caused by Leishmania braziliensis and Leishmania panamensis. Am J Trop Med Hyg 86(5):807-811
  23. Bianciardi P et al (2009) Administration of miltefosine and meglumine antimoniate in healthy dogs: clinicopathological evaluation of the impact on the kidneys. Toxicol Pathol 37(6):770-775
  24. Farca AM et al (2012) Canine leishmaniosis: in vitro efficacy of miltefosine and marbofloxacin alone or in combination with allopurinol against clinical strains of Leishmania infantum. Parasitol Res 110(6):2509-2513
  25. Palatnik-de-Sousa CB (2012) Vaccines for canine leishmaniasis. Front Immunol 3:69