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Current situation of Leishmania infantum infection in shelter dogs in northern Spain

Guadalupe Miró*, Rocío Checa, Ana Montoya, Leticia Hernández, Diana Dado and Rosa Gálvez

Author Affiliations

Departamento de Sanidad Animal, Facultad de Veterinaria, Universidad Complutense, Madrid, Spain

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Parasites & Vectors 2012, 5:60  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-5-60

Published: 27 March 2012



Canine leishmaniosis (CanL) caused by Leishmania infantum is a widespread endemic disease in the Mediterranean basin, though, so far, the north of Spain has been considered a non-endemic area. The aim of the present study was to determine the prevalence of specific antibodies to L. infantum among stray dogs living in shelters in this area, and to evaluate the clinical status (both clinical signs and clinico-pathological abnormalities) of seropositive dogs. Besides L. infantum infection, the epidemiological role of variables like sex, breed and age was also assessed.


Over the year 2011 a cross-sectional study was conducted on a total of 418 stray dogs. A preliminary entomological survey was carried out using CDC-light traps. The chi-squared test was used to examine relationships between L. infantum seroprevalence and the remaining variables.


The overall seroprevalence of L. infantum infection detected was 3% in the Cantabrian coast. In Orense the seroprevalence was 35.6%. In this latter region, the presence of sand fly, Phlebotomus perniciosus was also detected.

In general, seropositivity for L. infantum was related to size (large breed dogs versus small) and age, with a significantly higher seroprevalence recorded in younger (0-3 years) and older dogs (> 7 years) than adult dogs. Clinical signs of CanL were observed in 41.3% of the seropositive dogs. The seropositivity for L. infantum infection associated with the presence of clinical signs and/or abnormal laboratory findings shows a prevalence of 4.5%.


Our data provide new insight into the prevalence of CanL across northern Spain. The situation observed in Orense seems to be worsening compared to the few reports available, with figures being similar to those cited for known endemic areas of Spain. Besides, the presence of P. perniciosus in Orense points out to a risk of the spread of this zoonotic disease in this geographical area. These findings identify a need for an active search for the sand fly vectors of L. infantum across the entire northern spanish region including the rest of Galicia, Asturias, Cantabria and the Basque Country.