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Antibody response to sand fly saliva is a marker of transmission intensity but not disease progression in dogs naturally infected with Leishmania infantum

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  • Rupert J Quinnell
  • Seyi Soremekun
  • Paul A Bates
  • Matthew E Rogers
  • Lourdes M Garcez
  • Orin Courtenay
Article number7
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>4/01/2018
<mark>Journal</mark>Parasites and Vectors
Issue number1
Number of pages12
Publication StatusPublished
<mark>Original language</mark>English


BACKGROUND: Antibody responses to sand fly saliva have been suggested to be a useful marker of exposure to sand fly bites and Leishmania infection and a potential tool to monitor the effectiveness of entomological interventions. Exposure to sand fly bites before infection has also been suggested to modulate the severity of the infection. Here, we test these hypotheses by quantifying the anti-saliva IgG response in a cohort study of dogs exposed to natural infection with Leishmania infantum in Brazil.

METHODS: IgG responses to crude salivary antigens of the sand fly Lutzomyia longipalpis were measured by ELISA in longitudinal serum samples from 47 previously unexposed sentinel dogs and 11 initially uninfected resident dogs for up to 2 years. Antibody responses were compared to the intensity of transmission, assessed by variation in the incidence of infection between seasons and between dogs. Antibody responses before patent infection were then compared with the severity of infection, assessed using tissue parasite loads and clinical symptoms.

RESULTS: Previously unexposed dogs acquired anti-saliva antibody responses within 2 months, and the rate of acquisition increased with the intensity of seasonal transmission. Over the following 2 years, antibody responses varied with seasonal transmission and sand fly numbers, declining rapidly in periods of low transmission. Antibody responses varied greatly between dogs and correlated with the intensity of transmission experienced by individual dogs, measured by the number of days in the field before patent infection. After infection, anti-saliva antibody responses were positively correlated with anti-parasite antibody responses. However, there was no evidence that the degree of exposure to sand fly bites before infection affected the severity of the infection.

CONCLUSIONS: Anti-saliva antibody responses are a marker of current transmission intensity in dogs exposed to natural infection with Leishmania infantum, but are not associated with the outcome of infection.