Parasitology Research

, Volume 113, Issue 6, pp 2005–2014 | Cite as

Role of wildlife in the epidemiology of Leishmania infantum infection in Europe

  • Javier MillánEmail author
  • Ezio Ferroglio
  • Laia Solano-Gallego


Although dogs are considered the main reservoir of Leishmania infantum infection in endemic areas in Europe, the existence of other wild vertebrate reservoirs has been proposed as a possible cause of the lack of success of control measures. Evidence of L. infantum infection in European wildlife has been reported in carnivores, lagomorphs, and rodents. The red fox (Vulpes vulpes) received most attention, probably due to its taxonomic relationship with the dog and because it is the most abundant wild carnivore in Europe. Foxes and other wild carnivores often displayed high prevalences of infection but their infectiveness to the sandfly vector has never been demonstrated. However, xenodiagnosis demonstrated that black rats (Rattus rattus), are infectious to sandflies. This, together with their relative abundance, high rates of infection, and the fact that infected rats have been found on a Mediterranean island where dogs are not present, makes rats good candidate to be reservoirs of L. infantum. Recently, the Iberian hare (Lepus granatensis) has been recognized as the origin of a leishmaniosis outbreak in humans in Spain and xenodiagnosis showed that this species is also able to infect sandflies. In contrast, a recent survey in cave bats failed to detect infected individuals. In the future, the comparison of parasite isolates from humans, dogs and wildlife, xenodiagnosis studies in wild carnivores, and the study of other vertebrate taxonomic groups will help determine the current role of European wildlife in the epidemiology of leishmaniosis.


Canine leishmaniosis Carnivore Epidemiology Leishmania infantum Sylvatic reservoir Wildlife 



We thank A.D. Chirife for helping in creating the figure. J. Millán and L. Solano-Gallego hold a Ramón y Cajal senior researcher contract awarded by the Ministerio de Ciencia e Innovación and the European Social Fund.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Javier Millán
    • 1
    Email author
  • Ezio Ferroglio
    • 2
  • Laia Solano-Gallego
    • 3
  1. 1.Facultad de Ecología y Recursos NaturalesUniversidad Andrés BelloSantiagoChile
  2. 2.Department of Animal Production, Epidemiology and EcologyUniversity of TurinGrugliasco (TO)Italy
  3. 3.Departament de Medicina i Cirurgia AnimalsUniversitat Autònoma de BarcelonaBellaterraSpain

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