[Interpretation of laboratory data during cryptic leishmaniasis in dog].Parassitologia. 2004 Jun; 46(1-2):227-9.P
Leishmaniasis is a zoonosis caused by an intracellular parasite belonging to the genus Leishmania. In Europe, Africa, South America and China, visceral leishmaniasis is caused by L. infantum. The vectors of leishmaniasis are phlebotomine sandflies belonging to the genera Phlebotomus. According to the World Health Organization there are 2 million new cases each year and 1/10 of the world's population is at risk of infection. Leishmaniasis is considered a zoonosis and human are generally accidental hosts. The animal reservoir includes rodents, dog and other mammals. Several studies have indicate that half of the dogs with antileishmanial antibodies have no signs of disease although, animal with subclinical infections are potentially infectious to sand flies. The factors determining susceptibility or resistence to visceral leishmaniasis remain unclear, but the genetics of the host may play a major role. Clinical signs are: intermittent fever, hepatosplenomegaly, skin lesions and ulcers, alopecia, onychogryphosis, anemia, thrombocytopenia and hypergammaglobulinemia. In mice, the outcome of infection depends on the polarized activation of one of two subsets of CD4+ T cells, Th1 or Th2, the subdivision into Th1 and Th2 cells is based on the pattern of cytokines that they produce. Th1 cells produce gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) and interleukin -2 (IL-2), whereas Th2 cells produce IL-4, IL-5, and IL-10. An important difference between susceptible and resistant mice is that the resistant mice are able to switch to a Th1 profile and control the disease. An important factor in the "decision" to form a Th1 or Th2 phenotype is the early cytokine environment, and IL-12 is one of the cytokines that contributes significantly to the establishment of the Th1 phenotype. Canine leishmaniosis is endemic in the Mediterranean basin and, in most cases is caused by the parasite Leishmania infantum. The main clinical findings are skin lesions, local or generalized lymphoadenopathy, loss of body weight, glomerulopathy, ocular lesions, epistaxis and lameness. Non pruritic skin lesions are the usual manifestation and several forms have been described, such as exfoliative dermatitis and alopecia, and ulcerative, nodular and pustular dermatitis. Seroepidemiological studies of canine leishmaniasis have revealed a large number of asymptomatic seropositive animals. Moreover in areas where leishmaniasis is highly endemic, high proportion of apparently healthy animals show low levels of anti-Leishmania antibodies. Others have regressive forms of the desease, and their antibody levels will decrease in the following months or years; still others maintain low levels of antibodies without developing the desease for many years. However, the total number of infected animals is unknown. Canine leishmaniasis is a major zoonosic parasitic disease, enzootic in the Mediterranean area, caused by the intracellular protozoan Leishmania infantum. The dog is the main reservoir host of the parasite. However, most infected dogs do not present any clinical signs, and there is evidence that Leishmania infection prevalence rates in areas of endemicity are higher than those ascertained by serological studies. Visceral leishmaniasis is becoming a real problem of public health because it is an opportunistic infection in immunocompromised patients and in human immunodeficiency virus-positive subjects. The detection of the extent of the infection, particularly among asymptomatic dogs, is of great importance for the control of leishmaniasis. PCR has been applied successfully in recent years to detect Leishmania spp. even in the cases with any of the clinical manifestation of leishmaniasis. Very recently, real-time PCR for Leishmania has been applied to evaluate the parasitic load of dog tissues both at the time of the diagnosis and during follow-up of the therapy and to measure cytokine mRNA levels in different clinical samples of infected and uninfected dogs.