Background: Sand flies are the only biologically adapted vectors of Leishmania parasites, however, a possible role in the transmission of Leishmania has been proposed for other hematophagous ectoparasites such as ticks. In order to evaluate natural infection by Leishmania infantum in Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks, taking into account its close association with dogs, 128 adult R. sanguineus ticks removed from 41 dogs living in endemic areas of canine leishmaniosis were studied. Methods. Individual DNA extraction was performed from each tick and whole blood taken from dogs. Dog sera were tested for IgG antibodies to L. infantum antigen by ELISA and L. infantum real-time PCR was performed from canine whole blood samples and ticks. Results: Leishmania infantum PCR was positive in 13 ticks (10.1%) including one female, (2.0%) and 12 males (15.2%), and in only five dogs (12.2%). Male ticks had a significantly higher infection rate when compared to female R. sanguineus. The percentage of L. infantum seroreactive dogs was 19.5%. All but two PCR positive dogs were seroreactive. Leishmania infantum PCR positive ticks were removed from seropositive and seronegative dogs with a variety of PCR results. Conclusions: This study demonstrates high prevalence of L. infantum DNA in R. sanguineus ticks removed from L. infantum seropositive and seronegative dogs. The presence of L. infantum DNA was detected mainly in male ticks possibly due to their ability to move between canine hosts and feed on several canine hosts during the adult life stage. Additional studies are needed to further explore the role of R. sanguineus ticks and in particular, male adults, in both the epidemiology and immunology of L. infantum infection in dogs in endemic areas. © 2012 Solano-Gallego et al.; licensee BioMed Central Ltd.
- Leishmania infantum
- Rhipicephalus sanguineus ticks