This study compares the utility of a molecular diagnosis of experimental CanL on non-invasive samples (urine, conjunctival (CS), oral (OS) and vulvar (VS) swabs) with that of traditional invasive techniques during the course of infection. Eight dogs were experimentally infected with Leishmania infantum and followed monthly for 12 months to assess clinical, clinicopathological, immunological and parasitological variables. Active infection was produced in 100% of the dogs. The animals showed positive bone marrow (BM) cytologies and cultures, clinical signs, clinicopathological abnormalities and a high specific humoral immune response. The infection was detected at 90 days post-infection (p.i.) by real-time quantitative PCR (rtQ-PCR) on BM in all dogs and in blood in 2 dogs, while anti-L. infantum antibody seroconversion occurred between Days 120 and 180 days p.i. The tissue with the highest L. infantum kDNA load, as detected by rtQ-PCR, was BM (range 381.5–70,000 parasites/ml at the study end), this sample type showing greater sensitivity than peripheral blood (PB). The vulvar swabs used here for the first time to quantify parasite loads in dogs revealed a greater load than oral and conjunctival swabs at one year p.i. Urine samples showed the lowest concentrations of L. infantum DNA (maximum: 8.57 parasites/ml). Our results suggest that for the early detection of infection, adding to serology a test such as rtQ-PCR on OS or VS improves sensitivity and specificity.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.