Identification of Leishmania spp. and T. cruzi parasites in stray felines in El Paso, Texas through polymerase chain reaction

Patricia Isabela Gonzalez, University of Texas at El Paso


Chagas disease and leishmaniasis are considered neglected parasitic diseases, and although dogs are considered the main domestic reservoirs, infected cats have recently been found in endemic areas in several countries and became a public health concern. These diseases can be transmissible to other animals and are known to infect humans as well. Natural infection of cats by Leishmania spp. and Trypanosoma cruzi has been demonstrated in several European, Latin American, and Asian countries. A recent field study found dogs and wild animals tested positive for both Leishmania and Trypanosoma cruzi in the El Paso, Texas Region. Cats, however, have not been tested in this region. In this study we aimed to detect Leishmania parasites and T. cruzi in tissue samples from 155 stray cats from the El Paso, Texas Region. Samples from the spleen, skin, and heart of each cat were collected and subjected to molecular analysis (PCR). Positive samples where then sequenced as an alternate method to detect the presence of DNA from Leishmania parasites and T. cruzi. Percentage of frequency of positive samples was calculated and their distribution was mapped throughout El Paso region and surrounding areas according to place of capture. PCR results show positive identification of Leishmania spp. in nearly twenty percent of skin tissues, and no cases of T. cruzi in any of the tissues tested. DNA sequencing proved infection of Leishmania spp. parasites in 19 of the 155 cats indicative of the presence of the parasites in the tissues of the studied stray cat population. No geographical pattern was observed among the positive samples.

Subject Area

Public health

Recommended Citation

Gonzalez, Patricia Isabela, "Identification of Leishmania spp. and T. cruzi parasites in stray felines in El Paso, Texas through polymerase chain reaction" (2015). ETD Collection for University of Texas, El Paso. AAI10000799.