The opossum, Didelphis marsupialis (Marsupialia: Didelphidae), as a reservoir host of Leishmania braziliensis guyanensis in the Amazon Basin of Brazil

Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1981;75(4):537-41. doi: 10.1016/0035-9203(81)90194-2.


A total of 52 opossums (six species) were examined for evidence of infection with Leishmania in three different areas of forest near Manaus, Amazonas State, Brazil. No infections were detected in 27 opossums from a region of relatively undisturbed forest, including specimens of Didelphis marsupialis (18); Metachirus nudicaudatus (four); Monodelphis brevicaudata (one); Marmosa cinerea (two); M. murina (one) and M. parvidens (one). Of 15 D. marsupialis captured from a biological reserve, much disturbed by man, three were infected with L. braziliensis guyanensis: isolations were made from the skin of two of the animals, and from the viscera of the third. The isolates were biologically and biochemically indistinguishable from one isolate of L. b. guyanensis made from man and two from the sandfly vector Lutzomyia umbratilis from the same area. Two of eight D. marsupialis and both of two M. cinerea from another area of virgin forest used for army manoeuvres were infected with Leishmania mexicana amazonensis: the parasite was in all four cases isolated from normal skin. Five of nine specimens of Proechimys guyannensis, from the vicinity of Manaus, were also infected with L. m. amazonensis. A further 13 mammals (eight species) were negative for Leishmania. The importance of opossums as a reservoir of L. b. guyanensis is discussed. Although they may play only a minor role in virgin forest which is undisturbed by man, opossums (D. marsupialis) may become a significant reservoir of infection where man's activities have eliminated the major reservoir--which has yet to be incriminated.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brazil
  • Disease Reservoirs*
  • Humans
  • Leishmania / enzymology
  • Leishmania / isolation & purification
  • Leishmaniasis / transmission
  • Leishmaniasis / veterinary
  • Opossums / parasitology*
  • Psychodidae / parasitology