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Hany Elsheikha
The Veterinary Nurse, Vol. 7, Iss. 5, 27 Jun 2016, pp 260 - 267

Leishmania are vector-borne protozoan parasites within the group known as the
Kinetoplastids. Infection with these parasites can result in a range of clinical
diseases dependent upon the infecting species. Leishmania infantum is the main
species causing leishmaniosis in dogs and cats, as well as visceral and cutaneous
forms of leishmaniosis in humans. Dogs are the main reservoir, but cats and other
potential vertebrate reservoirs have been also reported. Sandflies are the main
vector, but non-vectorial transmission (e.g. venereal, transplacental) is possible.
Despite the lack of a gold-standard diagnostic test diagnosis of leishmaniosis is
achieved mainly based on clinical signs, skin histopathology, serological detection
of specific immune responses against Leishmania and molecular detection of the
parasite DNA in tissues by using polymerase chain reaction. Correct and early
diagnosis is essential for timely institution of treatment and for minimising the
transmission of Leishmania from infected animals to vectors. Meglumine antimoniate
and allopurinol are the most widely used anti-leishmanial drugs. Vaccination
is also available, but only for dogs. The advent of effective insecticide-based
preparations, impregnated collars or topical ('spot-on') formulations, and insights
into the appropriate management of leishmaniosis lends a hopeful outlook for the
future. This article discusses biology, epidemiology, diagnosis, and management
of leishmaniosis in dogs and cats, and explains the importance of connecting
clinical and research communities in a 'One Health' approach for effective surveillance
and control of this disease.

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