BACKGROUND: Visceral leishmaniasis in Brazil is caused by the protozoan Leishmania (Leishmania) chagasi and it is transmitted by sandfly of the genus Lutzomyia. Dogs are an important domestic reservoir, and control of the transmission of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) to humans includes the elimination of infected dogs. However, though dogs are considered to be an important element in the transmission cycle of Leishmania, the identification of infected dogs representing an immediate risk for transmission has not been properly evaluated. Since it is not possible to treat infected dogs, they are sacrificed when a diagnosis of VL is established, a measure that is difficult to accomplish in highly endemic areas. In such areas, parameters that allow for easy identification of reservoirs that represents an immediate risk for transmission is of great importance for the control of VL transmission. In this study we aimed to identify clinical parameters, reinforced by pathological parameters that characterize dogs with potential to transmit the parasite to the vector. RESULTS: The major clinical manifestations of visceral leishmaniasis in dogs from an endemic area were onicogriphosis, skin lesions, conjunctivitis, lymphadenopathy, and weight loss. The transmission potential of these dogs was assessed by xenodiagnosis using Lutzomyia longipalpis. Six of nine symptomatic dogs were infective to Lutzomyia longipalpis while none of the five asymptomatic dogs were infective to the sandfly. Leishmania amastigotes were present in the skin of all clinically symptomatic dogs, but absent in asymptomatic dogs. Higher parasite loads were observed in the ear and ungueal region, and lower in abdomen. The inflammatory infiltrate was more intense in the ears and ungueal regions of both symptomatic and asymptomatic dogs. In clinically affected dogs in which few or none Leishmania amastigotes were observed, the inflammatory infiltrate was constituted mainly of lymphocytes and macrophages. When many parasites were present, the infiltrate was also comprised of lymphocytes and macrophages, as well as a larger quantity of polymorphonuclear neutrophils (PMNs). CONCLUSION: Dogs that represent an immediate risk for transmission of Leishmania in endemic areas present clinical manifestations that include onicogriphosis, skin lesions, conjunctivitis, lymphadenopathy, and weight loss. Lymphadenopathy in particular was a positive clinical hallmark since it was closely related to the positive xenodiagnosis.
Verçosa, B. L. A., Lemos, C. M., Mendonça, I. L., Silva, S. M. M. S., De Carvalho, S. M., Goto, H., & Costa, F. A. L. (2008). Transmission potential, skin inflammatory response, and parasitism of symptomatic and asymptomatic dogs with visceral leishmaniasis. BMC Veterinary Research, 4. https://doi.org/10.1186/1746-6148-4-45