Does co-infection with vector-borne pathogens play a role in clinical canine leishmaniosis?

Marta Baxarias, Alejandra Álvarez-Fernández, Pamela Martínez-Orellana, Sara Montserrat-Sangrà, Laura Ordeix, Alicia Rojas, Yaarit Nachum-Biala, Gad Baneth, Laia Solano-Gallego*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

44 Scopus citations


Background: The severity of canine leishmaniosis (CanL) due to Leishmania infantum might be affected by other vector-borne organisms that mimic its clinical signs and clinicopathological abnormalities. The aim of this study was to determine co-infections with other vector-borne pathogens based on serological and molecular techniques in dogs with clinical leishmaniosis living in Spain and to associate them with clinical signs and clinicopathological abnormalities as well as disease severity. Methods: Sixty-one dogs with clinical leishmaniosis and 16 apparently healthy dogs were tested for Rickettsia conorii, Ehrlichia canis, Anaplasma phagocytophilum and Bartonella henselae antigens by the immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT) and for E. canis, Anaplasma spp., Hepatozoon spp., Babesia spp. and filarioid DNA by polymerase chain reaction (PCR). Results: Among the dogs examined by IFAT, the seroprevalences were: 69% for R. conorii, 57% for E. canis, 44% for A. phagocytophilum and 37% for B. henselae; while the prevalences found by PCR were: 8% for Ehrlichia/Anaplasma, 3% for Anaplasma platys and 1% for H. canis. No other pathogen DNA was detected. Statistical association was found between dogs with clinical leishmaniosis and seroreactivity to R. conorii antigen (Fisher's exact test: P = 0.025, OR = 4.1, 95% CI = 1-17) and A. phagocytophilum antigen (Fisher's exact test: P = 0.002, OR = 14.3, 95% CI = 2-626) and being positive to more than one serological or molecular tests (co-infections) (Mann-Whitney test: U = 243, Z = -2.6, n 1 = 14, n 2 = 61, P = 0.01) when compared with healthy dogs. Interestingly, a statistical association was found between the presence of R. conorii, E. canis, A. phagocytophilum and B. henselae antibodies in sick dogs and some clinicopathological abnormalities such as albumin and albumin/globulin ratio decrease and increase in serum globulins. Furthermore, seroreactivity with A. phagocytophilum antigens was statistically associated with CanL clinical stages III and IV. Conclusions: This study demonstrates that dogs with clinical leishmaniosis from Catalonia (Spain) have a higher rate of co-infections with other vector-borne pathogens when compared with healthy controls. Furthermore, positivity to some vector-borne pathogens was associated with more marked clinicopathological abnormalities as well as disease severity with CanL.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number135
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 20 Mar 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 The Author(s).


  • Anaplasma phagocytophilum
  • Anaplasma platys
  • Bartonella henselae
  • Canine leishmaniosis
  • Co-infection
  • Ehrlichia canis
  • Hepatozoon canis
  • Leishmania infantum
  • Rickettsia conorii
  • Spain


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