Exposure to Leishmania spp. and sand flies in domestic animals in northwestern Ethiopia

Iva Rohousova*, Dalit Talmi-Frank, Tatiana Kostalova, Nikola Polanska, Tereza Lestinova, Aysheshm Kassahun, Daniel Yasur-Landau, Carla Maia, Roni King, Jan Votypka, Charles L. Jaffe, Alon Warburg, Asrat Hailu, Petr Volf, Gad Baneth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

37 Scopus citations


Background: Human visceral leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania donovani is considered an anthroponosis; however, Leishmania-infected animals have been increasingly reported in L. donovani foci, and the role of these animals as reservoirs for human L. donovani infection remains unclear. Methods: We conducted a study of domestic animals (goats, sheep, cows, dogs, and donkeys) in three L. donovani foci in northwestern Ethiopia. Domestic animals were screened for Leishmania DNA and for anti-L. donovani IgG. Serum anti-sand fly saliva antibodies were used as a marker of exposure to the vector sand fly, Phlebotomus orientalis. Results: Of 546 animals tested, 32 (5.9 %) were positive for Leishmania DNA, with positive animals identified among all species studied. Sequencing indicated that the animals were infected with parasites of the L. donovani complex but could not distinguish between L. infantum and L. donovani. A total of 18.9 % of the animals were seropositive for anti-L. donovani IgG, and 23.1 % of the animals were seropositive for anti-P. orientalis saliva IgG, with the highest seroprevalence observed in dogs and sheep. A positive correlation was found between anti-P. orientalis saliva and anti-L. donovani IgGs in cows, goats, and sheep. Conclusions: The detection of L. donovani complex DNA in the blood of domestic animals, the reported seroprevalence to the L. donovani antigen, and the widespread exposure to sand fly saliva among domestic animals indicate that they are frequently exposed to Leishmania infection and are likely to participate in the epidemiology of Leishmania infection, either as potential blood sources for sand flies or possibly as parasite hosts.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number360
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 8 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We thank our colleagues at the AAU-MF LRDL (Addis Ababa University Medical Faculty Leishmaniasis Research and Diagnostic Laboratory) as well as all of the drivers for their invaluable technical support during the field work. We are grateful to Vera Volfova for the maintenance of the P. orientalis colony. Animal control sera were generously provided by Dr. David Modry (Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Veterinary and Pharmaceutical Sciences Brno, the Czech Republic) and Dr. Kamil Sedlak (State Veterinary Institute Prague, the Czech Republic). This project was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Global Health Program (OPPGH5336), the Czech Science Foundation (project no. 13-05292S), Charles University in Prague (GAUK 675012/B-BIO, SVV260202), EurNegVec COST Action TD1303 and COST-CZ LD14076, and by EU grant FP7-261504 EDENext and is catalogued by the EDENext Steering Committee as EDENext273 (www.edenext.eu). The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Commission. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of manuscript. CM holds an FCT fellowship (SFRH/BPD/44082/2008). CLJ holds the Michael and Penny Feiwel Chair in Dermatology.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Rohousova et al.


  • Domestic animals
  • Ethiopia
  • Leishmania donovani
  • PCR
  • Phlebotomus orientalis
  • Sand fly saliva
  • Serology
  • Visceral leishmaniasis


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