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Could canine visceral leishmaniosis take hold in the UK?
  1. Malcolm S. Duthie and
  2. Christine Petersen
  1. Infectious Disease Research Institute, Seattle, WA, USA
  2. University of Iowa, Iowa City, IA, USA
  1. email: mduthie{at}

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Canine visceral leishmaniosis (CVL) is a life-threatening outcome of infection with Leishmania infantum, a protozoan parasite that is found throughout the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East, Latin America and some parts of Asia.1 Reviews of veterinary records have indicated a CVL prevalence of between 0.007 and 0.04 per cent in the UK. The majority of cases have been reported in southern England, with all affected dogs having spent at least several months in endemic countries such as Spain.2,3

Leishmania is typically transmitted during the blood meal of infected sand flies. However, sand flies are not found in the UK. In the absence of sand flies, alternative routes of transmission such as vertical, venereal and receipt of infected blood transfusions have been demonstrated (Fig 1).4-7 Additionally, it has been speculated that direct dog-to-dog transmission through bites or wounds was the likely mode of transmission in isolated CVL cases in Finland, Germany and New Caledonia in the south-west Pacific.5,8,9

Fig 1: Transmission modes that could support the introduction and propagation of Leishmania infantum infection in the UK dog population. It includes subclinically infected dogs that would not be identified by current travel history or blood donation standards. CVL Canine visceral leishmaniosis

What you need to know

  • The risk of developing canine visceral leishmaniosis (CVL) in the UK is extremely low, but it is not zero.

  • CVL is most likely to occur in dogs imported from Leishmania-endemic regions.

  • Contact with Leishmania …

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