Dogs are a favored feeding source for sand flies that transmit human L. infantum infection. Zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis (ZVL) is an emerging problem in some U.S. dog breeds, with over 20% of at-risk Foxhounds infected. Although classically Leishmania is transmitted by infected sand flies which exist in the United States, no role has yet been determined for vector-borne transmission. Means of ongoing L. infantum transmission in U.S. dogs is unknown. Possibilities include transplacental and horizontal/venereal transmission. Aims for this study were to establish whether transplacental transmission occurred in Leishmania-infected U.S. dogs and determine the effect of this transmission on immune recognition of Leishmania. This novel report describes wide-spread infection as identified by kqPCR in 8 day-old pups born to a naturally-infected, seropositive U.S. dog with no travel history. This is the first report of transplacental transmission of L. infantum in naturally-infected dogs in North America. Evidence that mom-to-pup transmission of ZVL may continue disease in an otherwise non-endemic region has significant implications on current control strategies for ZVL. Determining frequency of vertical transmission and incorporating canine sterilization with vector control may have a more significant impact on ZVL transmission to people in endemic areas than current control efforts
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