Canine visceral leishmaniasis in Sicily

Mil Med. 2000 Jan;165(1):29-32.


The Sicilian province of Catania is an active foci for human visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in the Mediterranean area. Approximately 10 to 15 cases of VL are diagnosed via hospital admissions each year in this community. Recently, an increase in VL case reporting by Sicilian physicians was noted, with 38 and 37 VL cases in 1996 and 1997, respectively. Before 1995, there were no reported VL cases among U.S. military personnel or their family members living in Sicily. However, since 1996, there have been four cases referred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center for diagnosis and treatment, all involving the children of personnel assigned to Naval Air Station Sigonella. Exposure histories for all infected individuals excluded exposure to Leishmania parasites outside of Sicily. All patients lived in areas where vectoring sandflies are present. All had dogs as family pets. To evaluate the level of infection among dogs owned by Navy personnel and their families, U.S. Navy Environmental and Preventive Medicine Unit 7, in a collaborative study with the U.S. Army Veterinary Clinic, Naval Air Station Sigonella, and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research, performed clinical evaluation and serological testing of 50 dogs residing with U.S. personnel assigned to Naval Air Station Sigonella. The data indicate a high exposure rate to Leishmania (60% of the animals tested had elevated immunoglobulin M antibody levels) in the study population, suggesting that they were infected with Leishmania infantum. Distribution of seropositive dogs by sex was equal. Most of the dogs studied appeared to be in good health. However, inapparent infection of dogs, seen by Italian veterinarians, has been observed throughout all areas of Catania. Sandflies responsible for vectoring L. infantum were trapped in the same locations as the dogs sampled in this study. The level of subclinical infection was 75% among seropositive dogs. The overall level of canine infection observed was higher than expected. This study demonstrates an increased risk to military working dogs and companion dogs of U.S. personnel for infection with L. infantum during a 2- to 3-year tour in Sicily.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Animals, Domestic / parasitology
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / blood
  • Child
  • Dog Diseases / epidemiology
  • Dog Diseases / parasitology*
  • Dogs
  • Environmental Exposure
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood
  • Immunoglobulin M / blood
  • Insect Vectors / parasitology
  • Leishmania infantum / immunology
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / epidemiology
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / veterinary*
  • Male
  • Military Personnel
  • Prevalence
  • Psychodidae / parasitology
  • Risk Factors
  • Sicily / epidemiology


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunoglobulin M