Risk of establishment of canine leishmaniasis infection through the import of dogs into South Africa.
Canine leishmaniasis is a vector-borne disease caused by protozoa of the genus Leishmania that affect dogs, humans and wildlife. Sandflies of the genera Phlebotomus and Lutzomyia are the primary vectors. Canine leishmaniasis is an exotic and controlled disease in South Africa. The main purpose of our risk assessment study was to evaluate the likelihood that this exotic disease could enter and be established in South Africa through importation of live dogs. Risk analysis to the spread of the disease follows the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) formal method of quantitative risk assessment documented as a step-by-step process. We have identified and discussed 11 possible risk factors involved in three steps for final assessment. The annual average number of diagnostic tests performed on imported dogs from 44 countries for 2011-2015 was 1158. Leishmania is reported to occur in 21/44 (47.7%) exporting countries. A total of 71.1% of Leishmania positive dogs were imported from these endemic countries. The yearly percentage of Leishmania positive dogs ranged from 0.2% to 2%. Three confirmed clinical and fatal cases of leishmaniasis in dogs of unidentified origin have been reported by our laboratory and the state veterinarians. The disease has been reported in neighbouring countries as well as the putative sandfly vectors. This study concluded that the risk for the introduction and degree of uncertainty of Leishmania in imported dogs in South Africa are moderate. Risk mitigation and recommendations such as investigations into possible occurrence of autochthonous leishmaniasis in the country, surveillance in its wildlife reservoirs and systematic surveillance of sandfly populations are discussed.