First report of Anaplasma platys infection in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) and molecular detection of Ehrlichia canis and Leishmania infantum in foxes from Portugal

Luís Cardoso*, Matan Gilad, Helder C.E. Cortes, Yaarit Nachum-Biala, Ana Patrícia Lopes, Maria João Vila-Viçosa, Margarida Simões, Paula A. Rodrigues, Gad Baneth

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

40 Scopus citations


Background: The bacteria Anaplasma platys and Ehrlichia canis and the protozoan Leishmania infantum are vector-borne agents that cause canine vector-borne diseases, some of which are zoonotic. The present survey investigated the prevalence of Anaplasma, Ehrlichia and Leishmania in red foxes (Vulpes vulpes) from Portugal by molecular analysis, in order to evaluate the epidemiological role of these canids as reservoirs of infection. Methods: Blood and/or bone marrow samples were collected from 78 red foxes obtained in eight districts of northern, central and southern Portugal. Real-time polymerase chain reactions (PCR) amplified a 123 bp fragment of the 16S rRNA gene of Anaplasma spp. and Ehrlichia spp. and a 265 bp fragment of the L. infantum internal transcribed spacer one (ITS1) region of the rRNA operon evaluated by PCR-high resolution melt analysis (PCR-HRM), with sequencing of the DNA products. A phylogenetic analysis was carried out to compare these to other sequences from Anaplasma spp. and Ehrlichia spp. deposited in GenBank®. Results: A. platys was detected in 10 (14.5%) and E. canis in two (2.9%) out of 69 foxes; and L. infantum was detected in one (1.3%) of the 78 foxes. The prevalence of A. platys was significantly different from the prevalence of E. canis (p=0.016) and from that of L. infantum (p=0.002). No co-infections were found in any one of the 78 foxes. No statistically significant differences were found between the type of sample (blood and bone marrow), geographic regions (north/centre and south), age (<2 years and ≥2 years) and gender for any one of the agents. Conclusions: This is the first known report of A. platys in red foxes worldwide, as well as the first molecular evidence of E. canis in foxes from Portugal. The moderate prevalence of A. platys suggests that red foxes may play a role in the epidemiology of infection with this bacterium and serve as a reservoir for domestic dogs.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number8
JournalParasites and Vectors
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2015

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Cardoso et al.; licensee BioMed Central.


  • Anaplasma platys
  • Canine vector-borne diseases
  • Ehrlichia canis
  • Leishmania infantum
  • Polymerase chain reaction
  • Portugal
  • Red foxes
  • Vulpes vulpes


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