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CURRENTLY, there is a threat of canine leishmaniosis spreading to higher latitudes and elevations in Europe because of climate change (Ready 2017), so it is important to consider how best to manage and prevent this. In a paper summarised on p 47 in this issue of Veterinary Record, Lladró and others (2016) report on canine leishmaniosis in the Girona province of north-east Spain. The authors shed light on the challenges facing veterinarians in endemic regions of southern Europe. The majority of canine leishmaniosis is caused by the parasitic protozoan Leishmania infantum (Kinetoplastida, Trypanosomatidae) (Maia and Cardoso 2015), which is usually transmitted among domestic dogs and wild canids when they are bitten by blood-feeding female sand flies (Diptera, Phlebotominae) in regions of Africa, Asia, Europe and parts of Latin America with Mediterranean, subtropical and tropical climates (Ready 2013).
In southern Europe, primary diagnosis of canine leishmaniosis is based on a combination of clinical signs including squamosis, epistaxis, onychogryphosis, adenopathy, loss of weight and localised alopecia (Solano-Gallego and others 2011). Infections often significantly shorten longevity even when treated with the first-line therapeutic combination of meglumine antimoniate (Glucantime; Merial) and allopurinol (Zyloric; GlaxoSmithKline) (Solano-Gallego and others 2009, Bourdeau and others 2014). The gold standard for diagnosis is observing parasites in bone marrow or lymph node aspirates, but this has a low sensitivity even when performed by well-trained staff. Therefore, diagnosis is usually confirmed by serology and, increasingly, by rapid immunochromatographic dipstick tests incorporating one or more recombinant kinesin antigens, instead of immunofluorescence antibody tests (IFATs) and ELISAs that often vary among laboratories (Franco and others 2011, Solano-Gallego and others 2014). Diagnostic PCR tests are available to identify the other Leishmania species that can cause canine leishmaniosis in some regions (Gebhardt and others 2015), notably Leishmania tropica in south-east Europe, …