01220-A: Determination of Leishmania infantum Infection Rates in U.S. Foxhounds and Neapolitan Mastiffs via Serology and qPCR and Survey of Risk Factors for Visceral Leishmaniasis

Grant Status: Closed

Grant Amount: $12,960
Christine A Petersen, DVM, PhD; Iowa State University
February 1, 2009 - January 31, 2010

Sponsor(s): American Cavalier King Charles Spaniel Club Charitable Trust, Australian Shepherd Health & Genetics Institute, Border Collie Society of America, Briard Club of America Health & Education Trust, Collie Health Foundation, Jeffrey Pepper, United States Australian Shepherd Association

Breed(s): Neapolitan Mastiff, American Foxhound
Research Program Area: Immunology and Infectious Disease
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Project Summary

Potentially fatal Leishmania infantum infection in canines is gradually gaining a foothold in a handful of U.S. canine breeds, including Foxhounds, Italian Spinones, Neapolitan Mastiffs and Corsicas. Although some breed groups, including Spinones, have been very proactive in testing and eliminating risk of disease, for other breeds, particularly Neapolitan Mastiffs and Foxhounds the epidemiology of this infectious disease in the U.S. population previously was not well understood or had not been studied at all. L. infantum is the causative agent of Canine Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL), a sand fly-borne disease found in dogs of the Mediterranean basin. Dog breeds originating from this area may be susceptible to disease due to mom to pup transmission. As a part of this research was to determine the risk for disease in Neapolitan Mastiffs, a breed originating from an endemic country, Italy. The researchers found that almost 33% of dogs in the high risk Foxhound population acquired disease within the last year. They additionally found that roughly 3% of the sampled Neapolitan Mastiffs were positive for disease and an additional 11% had qPCR evidence of possible detection that required a follow-up sample to determine if it was a true positive test. Mom to pup transmission appeared to the main means of transmission, so testing of bitches prior to breeding is essential. There are no viable vaccine options for VL and current pharmaceuticals for this disease temporarily decrease clinical symptoms of disease, but do not lead to cure. The long-term goal is to prevent canine visceral leishmaniasis through identification and validation of specific factors as vaccine candidates which prevents clinical disease.


Boggiatto, P. M., Ramer-Tait, A. E., Metz, K., Kramer, E. E., Gibson-Corley, K., Mullin, K., … Petersen, C. A. (2010). Immunologic Indicators of Clinical Progression during Canine Leishmania infantum Infection. Clinical and Vaccine Immunology, 17(2), 267–273. https://doi.org/10.1128/CVI.00456-09

Boggiatto, Paola Mercedes, Gibson-Corley, K. N., Metz, K., Gallup, J. M., Hostetter, J. M., Mullin, K., & Petersen, C. A. (2011). Transplacental Transmission of Leishmania infantum as a Means for Continued Disease Incidence in North America. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 5(4), e1019. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0001019

Petersen, C. A. (2009a). Leishmaniasis, an Emerging Disease Found in Companion Animals in the United States. Topics in Companion Animal Medicine, 24(4), 182–188. https://doi.org/10.1053/j.tcam.2009.06.006

Petersen, C. A. (2009b). New Means of Canine Leishmaniasis Transmission in North America: The Possibility of Transmission to Humans Still Unknown. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Infectious Diseases, 2009, 1–5. https://doi.org/10.1155/2009/802712

Petersen, C. A., & Barr, S. C. (2009). Canine Leishmaniasis in North America: Emerging or Newly Recognized? Veterinary Clinics of North America: Small Animal Practice, 39(6), 1065–1074. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cvsm.2009.06.008

Vida, B., Toepp, A., Schaut, R. G., Esch, K. J., Juelsgaard, R., Shimak, R. M., & Petersen, C. A. (2016). Immunologic progression of canine leishmaniosis following vertical transmission in United States dogs. Veterinary Immunology and Immunopathology, 169, 34–38. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.vetimm.2015.11.008

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