Serological and molecular survey of Leishmania parasites in apparently healthy dogs in the West Bank, Palestine
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Background: Canine visceral leishmaniasis (CVL) is caused by Leishmania infantum in all Mediterranean countries. The Leishmania parasite is transmitted by the bite of a corresponding sand fly vector and primarily maintained in nature by wild and domestic reservoirs, including dogs, foxes and jackals. Infected dogs are the primary reservoir host in endemic regions and are the most significant risk disposing humans to infection. The present study aimed at assessing the prevalence of infection with Leishmania and identification of Leishmania infantum in domestic dogs in the West Bank, Palestine. Methods: The infection rate among domestic dogs collected from seven districts in the Palestinian West Bank was investigated by examination of parasites in culture from the buffy coat using serological and molecular methods; based on ELISA, internal transcribed spacer 1 (ITS1) and cysteine protease (CPB) PCR. Results: Out of 215 dogs examined for Leishmania, 36 (16.7%) were positive in at least one method. Twenty three animals (11.5%) were positive for Leishmania DNA, whereas, ELISA and culture revealed 16 (7.5%), and 4 (1.5%) respectively. CPB-PCR on one of three culture-positive isolates revealed Leishmania infantum as the causative agent for Leishmania infection in dogs. Conclusions: Our study showed that canine leishmania infection is prevalent with varying degrees in all the seven studied districts in Palestine despite the absence of human VL cases in 4 of these districts. The causative agent was confirmed to be Leishmania infantum.