Transplacental transmission of a North American isolate of Leishmania infantum in an experimentally infected beagle
Leishmania infantum, an etiologic agent of zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis, is widespread among foxhounds in the United States. Although sand flies are widely distributed throughout the United States, epidemiological data do not support a major role for sand flies in the transmission of L. infantum in foxhounds in this country. Congenital transmission of human visceral leishmaniasis is reported in humans and might also occur in dogs. We have previously isolated L. infantum from Virginia foxhounds and used this isolate (LIVT-1) to experimentally infect beagles. Four female beagles, chronically infected with LIVT-I, were bred to a male beagle chronically infected with L. infantum chagasi. One beagle was able to maintain her pregnancy, and 4 puppies were delivered by cesarean section. One puppy was malformed and autolytic at delivery, and tissues were not collected or analyzed. The remaining puppies were killed at the time of cesarean section, and selected tissues were collected for parasite culture and PCR. Promastigotes were not cultured from tissues in any of the puppies. Leishmania sp. DNA was detectable by PCR in liver, bone marrow, and heart from all 3 puppies and in the spleen, lymph node, kidney, and placenta in 2 puppies. Placental tissue from the dam was PCR negative. This is the first report of maternal transmission of a North American isolate of L. infantum from an experimentally infected dog.