Visceral Leishmaniasis: unpunished executioner and the condemned victim, says Porto Alegre animal rights activist

A decision from Rio Grande do Sul State Court forbids culling for animals with leishmaniasis suspicion However, the City Health Secretary ensures there is no possibility to suspend the measure, since it is a recommendation from human and vererinary health organs


This rescued dog who was wandering in Porto Alegre, had a positive leishmanisis result He was sacrificed for not responding to the treatment. Under these situations there is a dilema for animal rights activists, since while being against culling, in face of the animals suffering the decision for euthanasia becomes unavoidable

The kala-azar urbanization process (human visceral leishmaniasis) is one of the most notable and intriguing epidemiological transormations ever reported in the Country. The reasons are still little knoen, but unplanned urban outskirts that lack infrastructure, under precarious sanitation conditions, are some of the many risk factors related to the phenomenon. Unfortunately, Brazil still bets on animal culling as a way to contain the disease. The death of a one and a half year-old girl by kala-azar, registered in late September, 2016, in Porto Alegreand two other cases this year have put the State under alert. In this July, the City Health Secretary (SMS) from Porto Alegre confirmed the culling for dogs with leishmaniasis. According to the article, the Board ensured there is no way to suspend the measure. It states that the decision is by organs responsiblefor human and animalhealth, since the erradication of the infection by the causing agent, the L.infantum protozoa,  is very unlikely.

However, a decision by the States Court has forbidden the sacrifice of animals suspected to be infected by the disease. According to the article, despite acknowledging the more than enough reasons to sacrifice animals in order to protect human health, the judge stresses the test the animals were subjected is not trustworthy, and that drugs as Milteforan can cure animals and avoid infections. The judge also said Fiocruz, from Rio de Janeiro, could develop a more trustworthy test.

However, the animal rights activist from Porto Alegre (RS), Leila Vizzotto, alerts the culling policies is still in effect. The recourse was accepted by the appellate Judge, but the lawsuit will follow its course for final judgment, observes, while adding that currently four dogs returned postive results for leishmaniasis. The animals are being treated free-of-charge at a local veterinary clinic and the veterinarians are monitoring them weekly. The activist says that, in the Veterinary Medicine Unit, there are other 27 dogs that were collected by the Special Secretary for Animal Rights (SEDA) and sanitary surveillance, where the tests were performed returning positive results. Some, however, were still not submitted for final tests. And these dogs are those with the sword over their heads, she says, alerting that in the streets of Porto Alegre there are many other animals that could be infected by leishmaniasis. Without the treatment, these dogs will wither and die. Besides this, places where the focus is greater, people live in vulnerable situation.

Veterinarian physician Luiz Eugênio de Miranda Sá, from Bonito (MS), agrees with the animal rights activist. How many lives (of animals) were lost for control strategy mistakes by the Federal Government! The cornerstone for control is the vector, phlebotomine sandfly Lutzomya longipalpis, (which, is not actually a mosquito, but a hematophogous fly that proliferates in shadowy and organic-matter rich environments) These, he says, are the ones to be fought as soon as cases among dogs were detected, he argues. Instead, they only authorize chemical blocking after human cases are reported. He ensures they prefere to promote indiscriminate murder of inocent victims and, still not satisfied, impose terror to less educated citizens saying the treatment is forbidden, that it does not work and that one could be held responsible if a family member or neighbor gets sick. The veterinarian reminds there is already an animal-use drug registered at the Agriculture and Livestock Ministry (MAPA). Treament for dogs with VL with Milteforan® is authorized.

The activist says she has visited all sites with greater leishmaniasis transmission incidence. I have talked to people who had their dogs collected  by surveillance, I saw their homes, I saw how precarious their lives were. A world within another world. Open sky sewers, deforested areas, the garbage perpetuating with nature. I hold no univeristy degrees, but even for someone lay as myself, chaos yells out for help. Meanwhile, the sandfly, free, is honored with the City Keys of Porto Alegre. It is weird to see an unpunished executioner and thecondemned victim. Pictures who why the sandfly is so at ease to replicate and why these neighborhoods make the nursery for this vector. If it had been studied, how it lives, which are its predatores, perhaps Porto Alegre would not be going through this situation, she regretes. According to the Sanitary Surveillance, this insect does not decrease its reproduction during winter, what could be seen as hope, due to the extreme winter in the South.

According to Leilas reports, in these places there are three health centers, and until the deaths, none had any guidance about kala-azar, despite the disease being reported in the State (in São Borja) since 2010, acknowledged by the Health Secretary/Surveillance. The untold story is that if these people had been immediately and properly treated, they would not have died. The child was medicated for everything – she was even considered to have leukemia – the other patient was elder, and the third was infected by the HIV, and all had delays for the correct diagnosis.

Meanwhile, a question troubles animal rights activists in the State: if all dogs are killed, with the vector disappear? And, without any aid from public powers, the activists found themselves among hundreds of doubts, little certanties and great despair. Those who can afford the treatment will pay for it, those who cannot will lose their dogs, she finishes.

Campo Grande and leishmaniasis

A similar situation took place in Mato Grosso do Sul State, when the Animal Well-Being Protection Society, from Campo Grande, placed a lawsuit if favor of no-sacrifice for animals with leishmaniasis. The lawyer in charge of the suit, Dr. Wagner Leão do Carmo, remembered that at the time that veterinarians have proper tools to treat infected dogs: Victory at the Supreme Court ensures treatment for animals with leishmaniasis. As he ensured, also at the time, Dr. Sibele Cação, veterinarian and former president of the Mato Grosso do Sul Veterinary Medicine Council (CRMV/MS), in an article of the Brazilian Society of Tropical Medicine (BSTM) stated that the first thing is to seek a correct diagnostic method. According to the expert, many dogs are culled wrongly, without fact-checking for whether they had the disease. She argued that the current routine tests used by public organs to diagnose the disease are not precise.

Read other articles by the BSTM about the theme:

Kala-azar and the law: a discussion about dog sacrifice and treatment

Court forbids sacrifice of dogs with leishmaniasis in Campo Grande

Leishmaniasis is a public health issue in the large tropical centers

Study searching for preventive leishmaniasis vaccine for dogs wins the 2015 Young Researcher Award

30 years of the visceral leishmaniasis urbanization in Brazil