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Vector Borne Zoonotic Dis. 2008 Aug;8(4):555-9. doi: 10.1089/vbz.2007.0247.

Importance of cats in zoonotic leishmaniasis in Portugal.

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Unidade de Leishmanioses, Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Lisboa, Portugal.


Leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania infantum, is an endemic zoonosis in the Mediterranean basin. Dogs are considered the major host for these parasites, as well as the main reservoir for human visceral infection. In recent years, asymptomatic infection or clinical disease caused by L. infantum in cats has been reported in several countries where zoonotic leishmaniasis is present. The aim of the present study was to perform a leishmaniasis survey in cats from an endemic focus. Twenty-three adult stray cats were surveyed by clinical examination, and peripheral blood samples for serological and molecular analysis were collected. In 7 of the 23 cats (30.4%) Leishmania DNA was detected in blood. A low level of fluorescent antibodies was detected in four serum samples. All the animals were asymptomatic. Taking into account the high rate of asymptomatic feline leishmaniasis in this survey, it can be suggested that cats may act as a habitual reservoir host of L. infantum infection in endemic areas. Furthermore, it will be important in the future to add this parasitosis to the differential diagnosis of feline infections from leishmaniasis foci in cats. Feline leishmaniasis diagnosis should be accessed by molecular tools.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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