Background: Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), caused by an intracellular parasite Leishmania donovani in the Indian subcontinent, is considered to be anthroponotic. The role of domestic animals in its transmission is still unclear. Although cattle are the preferred blood host for Phlebotomus argentipes, the sandfly vector of VL in the Indian subcontinent, very little information is available for their role in the disease transmission. In this study, we examined domestic cattle for serological and molecular evidence of Leishmania infection in a VL-endemic area in Bangladesh. Blood samples from 138 domestic cattle were collected from houses with active or recently-treated VL and post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis patients. The presence of anti-leishmanial antibodies in serum was investigated using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and then with direct agglutination tests (DAT). Nested PCR (Ln PCR) was performed to amplify the ssu-rRNA gene using the DNA extracted from Buffy coat. Recently-developed molecular assay loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) was also performed for further sensitive detection of parasite DNA. Results: In this study, 9.4% (n = 13) of the cattle were found to be positive by ELISA. Of the 13 ELISA-positive cattle, only four (30.8%) were positive in DAT. Parasite DNA was not detected in either of the molecular assays (Ln PCR and LAMP). Conclusions: The study confirmed the presence of antibodies against Leishmania parasite in cattle. However, the absence of Leishmania DNA in the cattle indicates clearly that the cattle do not play a role as reservoir host. Similar study needs to be undertaken in the Indian subcontinent to determine the role of other domestic animals on which sandflies feed.
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