Serological and molecular investigation of Leishmania spp. infection in cats from an area endemic for canine and human leishmaniasis in Northeast Brazil

Abstract The aim of this study was to investigate the occurrence of Leishmania spp. antibodies, and its association with feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and feline leukemia virus (FeLV), in domestic cats from an area endemic for canine and human leishmaniasis in Rio Grande do Norte State, Brazil. Ninety-one cats were subjected to a complete clinical exam, and blood samples were collected. An epidemiological questionnaire was used to investigate the risk factors. IgG anti-Leishmania spp. antibodies were detected by immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT), with a cut-off value of 1:40. Polymerase chain reaction (PCR) was performed to detect genetic material of Leishmania spp. in the blood samples. The presence of antibodies against FIV and antigens of FeLV was evaluated using an immunochromatographic test. Seropositivity for Leishmania spp., FIV, and FeLV was observed in 14/91 (15.38%), 26/91 (28.57%), and 3/91 (3.29%) cats, respectively. All samples gave negative results on PCR analysis. Based on these data, no significant statistical association was observed between seropositivity for Leishmania spp., and sex, age, presence of clinical signs, evaluated risk factors, and positivity for retroviruses. These findings demonstrated for the first time that cats from Mossoró, Rio Grande do Norte, are being exposed to this zoonosis and might be part of the epidemiological chain of transmission of visceral leishmaniasis.