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

Javier Millán, Ezio Ferroglio, Laia Solano-Gallego

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

81 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2005-2014
Number of pages10
JournalParasitology Research
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2014


  • Canine leishmaniosis
  • Carnivore
  • Epidemiology
  • Leishmania infantum
  • Sylvatic reservoir
  • Wildlife

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • veterinary(all)
  • Insect Science
  • Infectious Diseases


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