Leishmania infantum, an etiologic agent of zoonotic visceral leishmaniasis, is endemic in the foxhound population in the United States and Canada. Leishmaniasis is usually transmitted by blood-feeding sand flies; however, epidemiological data do not support a significant role for sand flies in the maintenance of foxhound infections in North America, and an alternate mode of transmission may exist. The present study was conducted to determine if transplacental or direct transmission occurs in pregnant BALB/c mice experimentally infected with L. infantum isolated from a naturally infected foxhound from Virginia as well as to determine if the parasite was directly transmitted to the males used to breed the mice. Female BALB/c mice were intravenously inoculated with 1 × 106 promastigotes of the LIVT-1 strain of L. infantum. Mice were bred to uninfected male BALB/c mice 2 mo postinoculation. Pregnant mice were killed between days 13 and 18 of gestation. Pups and placentas were collected at necropsy, divided, and used for parasite culture and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analyses. Culture and PCR analyses were performed on spleens from the male mice to determine the possibility of sexual transmission. Leishmania sp. DNA was detected in 4 of 88 pups and 3 of 16 placentas from LIVT-1–inoculated mice. One male mouse used to breed infected females was PCR positive. This work provides evidence for a low level of nonvector transmission of North American L. infantum in a mouse model.
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