The epidemiology of Yersinia pestis, the causative agent of plague, involves vectors and reservoirs in its transmission cycle. The passive plague surveillance in Madagascar targets mainly rodent and fleas. However, carnivores are routinely surveyed as sentinels of local plague activity in some countries. The aim of this study is to assess the use of domestic dog (Canis familiaris) as sentinel animal for field surveillance of plague in a highly endemic area in Madagascar. Cross-sectional surveys of plague antibody prevalence in C. familiaris were conducted in endemic areas with contrasting histories of plague cases in humans, as well as a plague free area. Rodent capture was done in parallel to evaluate evidence for Y. pestis circulation in the primary reservoirs. In 2 sites, dogs were later re-sampled to examine evidence of seroconversion and antibody persistence. Biological samplings were performed between March 2008 and February 2009. Plague antibody detection was assessed using anti-F1 ELISA. Our study showed a significant difference in dog prevalence rates between plague-endemic and plague-free areas, with no seropositive dogs detected in the plague free area. No correlation was found between rodents and dog prevalence rates, with an absence of seropositive rodents in some area where plague circulation was indicated by seropositive dogs. This is consistent with high mortality rates in rodents following infection. Re-sampling dogs identified individuals seropositive on both occasions, indicating high rates of re-exposure and/or persistence of plague antibodies for at least 9 months. Seroconversion or seropositive juvenile dogs indicated recent local plague circulation. In Madagascar, dog surveillance for plague antibody could be useful to identify plague circulation in new areas or quiescent areas within endemic zones. Within active endemic areas, monitoring of dog populations for seroconversion (negative to positive) or seropositive juvenile dogs could be useful for identifying areas at greatest risk of human outbreaks.
- Canis familiaris
- Yersinia pestis