Risk factors for canine leishmaniasis in an endemic Mediterranean region

Sofia Cortes, Yolanda Vaz, Rodolfo Neves, Carla Maia, Luís Cardoso, Lenea Campino

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79 Citations (Scopus)


Human visceral leishmaniasis is an emergent/re-emergent parasitic zoonotic disease in Europe caused by Leishmania infantum, with domestic dog as its main reservoir host. This study presents the results of a canine epidemiological survey in a mediterranean region where human and canine leishmaniasis (CanL) are endemic - Portugal. The main goal was to identify risk factors, which can be relevant for Leishmania infection control. The national survey was carried out in January 2009 with a screening of 3974 dogs from all 18 districts of mainland Portugal. Direct Agglutination Test was used for the detection of anti-Leishmania antibodies in canine blood. An overall CanL true prevalence of 6.31% was observed. Apparent prevalence at district level ranged from 0.88% to 16.16%, with the highest prevalence in the interior regions. Identified risk factors for positivity were: dogs of 2 years and older (adjusted odds ratio OR = 5.39); spending exclusively/most of the time outdoors (OR = 2.51); origin from the interior of Portugal in comparison to littoral/coast districts (OR = 2.51); not having long fur (OR = 2.03); and being pure exotic (OR = 1.67). The results confirm the leishmaniasis endemicity in Portugal and the dynamic character of prevalence as new foci emerged and old foci lost their importance. The dog's age, fur size, district and living outdoors as opposed to indoors were more important than dog breeds and insecticide treatment in the transmission of Leishmania infection. The future of CanL prevention and control rely on an integrated approach involving veterinarians, dog owners and health authorities in order to reduce the canine infection risk and consequently, the human zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)189-196
Number of pages8
JournalVeterinary Parasitology
Issue number2-4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Oct 2012


  • Dogs
  • Endemic region
  • Leishmania
  • Portugal
  • Prevalence
  • Risk factors


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