Diagnosis and Testing
Although the terms are often used interchangeably, they do have subtlety different meanings in medical and veterinary terminology. Whichever term you choose, global travel and climate change is likely to increase the demand for Leishmania diagnostic testing.
Canine Hosted Parasite With the Zoonotic Risk to Humans
Leishmaniasis usually refers to the abnormal conditions or characteristics caused by infection with the Leishmania infantum protozoan in humans. Leishmaniosis, on the other hand, is more often used to describe the disease process caused by the presence of this intracellular parasite in its primary host, the dog. However, in general use, the terms seem interchangeable.
Named to honour Scottish pathologist and Director of Army Medical Services, William Boog Leishman, the parasite is spread principally through bites from species of blood-sucking Phlebotominae mosquitoes generally known as sandflies. According to Leishvet.org, dogs and cats infected with Leismania.spp can exhibit a range of symptoms affecting their digestive, cutaneous, ocular, circulatory and nervous systems.
Enlarged Lymph Nodes and Skin Lesions May Aid Diagnosis
Most dogs carrying the parasite show no clinical symptoms and may live for many years before becoming obviously sick. As the clinical disease is almost always fatal, accurate and rapid diagnosis of leishmaniosis in dogs is critical whenever an infection is suspected.
Knowledge of an animal’s travel history can be a key factor in helping vets to diagnose a suspected case of leishmaniosis. Dogs showing enlarged lymph nodes (lymphadenomegaly) and skin lesions, with a history of travel to the Mediterranean or Africa and South America, may be prime candidates for diagnostic testing for Leishmania.
Vaccination, Insecticides and Fly Repellent Collars
Preventing infection in the first place is always the best course of action. Protective collars, repellent to fleas and ticks as well as sandflies, reduce the chance of the dog being bitten by the disease’s insect vector. Insecticides too, applied to areas of bare skin, protect those parts of a dog most vulnerable to sandfly predation.
Although there is currently no vaccine against the risk of Leishmania infection, a vaccine to strengthen the Leishmania immune response has been licensed for use in dogs since 2011. Owners of dogs intending to travel with their animals into Leishmania.spp endemic areas would be advised to consult their vets well in advance of their journey.
Rapid, Reliable Diagnostic Testing for L.infantum Antigens
Because of the disease’s long asymptomatic period, it is recommended that well-travelled pets should be tested for pre-existing infection, especially before any vaccine is administered or further travel considered. FASTest Leish is the long shelf-life, simple colour-change test giving clear-cut antibody mediated results in 15 minutes.