Detection of Leishmania DNA in wild foxes and associated ticks in Patagonia, Argentina, 2000 km south of its known distribution area
López-Bao, José Vicente
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Background: Zoonotic Visceral Leishmaniasis (ZVL) is a vector-borne disease affecting humans and other mammals and caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum (syn. L. chagasi), belonging to the L. donovani complex. The regions in Northern Argentina (above 32 degrees S) are its southern distribution limit in South America. Results: We detected Leishmania sp. DNA (most likely belonging to the L. donovani complex) in 37.5 % of 32 grey foxes (Pseudalopex griseus) captured in Argentinean Patagonia (48 degrees S and 50 degrees S). Eleven monosexual pools of Amblyomma tigrinum ticks from eight different foxes (six grey foxes and two culpeo foxes P. culpaeus) were also positive. The southernmost known distribution limit for L. infantum, and the southernmost reported capture of a phlebotominae, had previously been 2000 and 750 km north of our study area, respectively. Conclusions: This finding is significant because it markedly extends the distribution area of leishmaniasis; supports the existence of a sylvatic cycle in the absence of dogs; and has implications in transmission, indicating that either sand fly distribution is broader than currently thought or non-sand fly Leishmania maintenance is possible. Additional molecular, parasitological, epidemiological and entomological studies are still needed.