Fatal Chagas myocarditis in government working dogs in the southern United States: Cross-reactivity and differential diagnoses in five cases across six months.
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We describe the diagnostics surrounding the deaths of five working dogs over six-months to provide an enhanced clinical and diagnostic understanding of canine Chagas disease. Cases were five dogs with antibodies to Trypanosoma cruzi. Medical records were reviewed for diagnostic history. Testing was performed from samples collected before or immediately after death, including measurement of cardiac troponin I, histology, PCR and serology for Leishmania spp. and T. cruzi. Four dogs had a 2 to 7-year history of T. cruzi antibodies, while one positive dog had an unknown duration of exposure. Age at death ranged from 2 to 11years and four dogs were actively working. The cardiac troponin I was elevated in all four dogs for which it was measured, although postmortem reference ranges are not established. Histopathologic diagnoses included mild to severe, chronic, lymphoplasmacytic to histiocytic myocarditis with variable fibrosis. Notably, only one dog had T. cruzi amastigotes observed in the heart histologically. T. cruzi DNA was detected in three other hearts. Although all five dogs tested antibody-positive for T. cruzi using three independent tests, all were also indirect fluorescent antibody-positive for Leishmania spp., interpreted as cross-reaction. Chagas disease in dogs is a diagnostic challenge owing to cross-reactions and variable clinical, histologic and molecular presentations. The use and interpretation of multiple diagnostic strategies is useful in diagnosis. This study demonstrates techniques used to diagnose and characterize Chagas disease in an at-risk dog population.