Culling dogs in scenarios of imperfect control: realistic impact on the prevalence of canine visceral leishmaniasis
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Background: Visceral leishmaniasis belongs to the list of neglected tropical diseases and is considered a public health problem worldwide. Spatial correlation between the occurrence of the disease in humans and high rates of canine infection suggests that in the presence of the vector, canine visceral leishmaniasis is the key factor for triggering transmission to humans. Despite the control strategies implemented, such as the sacrifice of infected dogs being put down, the incidence of American visceral leishmaniasis remains high in many Latin American countries. Methodology/Principal Findings: Mathematical models were developed to describe the transmission dynamics of canine leishmaniasis and its control by culling. Using these models, imperfect control scenarios were implemented to verify the possible factors which alter the effectiveness of controlling this disease in practice. Conclusions/Significance: A long-term continuous program targeting both asymptomatic and symptomatic dogs should be effective in controlling canine leishmaniasis in areas of low to moderate transmission (R-0 up to 1.4). However, the indiscriminate sacrifice of asymptomatic dogs with positive diagnosis may jeopardize the effectiveness of the control program, if tests with low specificity are used, increasing the chance of generating outrage in the population, and leading to lower adherence to the program. Therefore, culling must be planned accurately and implemented responsibly and never as a mechanical measure in large scale. In areas with higher transmission, culling alone is not an effective control strategy.