Transmission of Leishmania infantum via blood transfusion in dogs: Potential for infection and importance of clinical factors

Veterinary Parasitology, Volume 137, Issues 1-2, 15 April 2006, Pages 159-167

Eloisa de Freitas, Maria Norma Melo, Adriane Pimenta da Costa-Val, Marilene Suzan Marques Michalick
Blood transfusion is an important routine practice in veterinary medicine that generally involves the use of whole blood. Permanent blood donors must be vaccinated against viral infections that affect dogs and submitted periodically to clinical and serological examinations to detect blood-transmitted diseases. There is a very high risk of transmission of infectious agents, particularly protozoans due to their long incubation periods, subclinical persistence in infected animals and likelihood of remaining viable in bloodstocks. The aim of the present study was to identify the potential of asymptomatic and oligosymptomatic dogs for Leishmania infantum transmission as a result of transfusional practice. Nineteen Leishmania-seropositive adult dogs of both sexes and indeterminate breeds were selected as donors. The animals were classified as symptomatic, oligosymptomatic or asymptomatic after clinical examination and evaluated by ELISA, IFAT and bone marrow puncture biopsies. Whole blood and monocyte cells were collected and used for dog's serological evaluation and inoculation in culture medium as well as in hamsters. All but three dogs were positive for IFAT, ELISA and parasite demonstration in bone marrow aspirates, irrespective of their clinical conditions. Parasites were detected in 77% of the whole blood and 90% of the monocyte cultures. Six months after inoculation with whole blood or monocytes, hamsters developed infection and clinical symptoms of visceral leishmaniasis, as well as positive titres measured by ELISA. These results suggest that blood donors should be monitored periodically and rigorously for Leishmania infection, to prevent dissemination of the disease through blood transfusion.

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