[Show abstract][Hide abstract] ABSTRACT: A community-based epidemiological study was carried out in a rural area in northeastern Brazil, where visceral leishmaniasis is endemic, but the primary vector Lutzomyia longipalpis has never been found. Forty-one dogs were screened by an indirect immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT) for the presence of anti-Leishmania antibodies and 12 (29.3%) of them were positive. One of the IFAT-positive dogs was also positive for Leishmania amastigotes in bone marrow cytology and for Leishmania infantum by real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) on blood. One IFAT-negative dog was positive for L. infantum by PCR on bone marrow and other for Leishmania amastigotes in skin stained-smears. When tested for L. braziliensis by PCR, 20 dogs were positive. Considering all diagnostic tests, the estimated prevalence of Leishmania spp. infection in the studied rural dog population was 58.5%. There was no significant difference in IFAT-positivity in relation to age, gender, and clinical status of the dogs. When tested for L. infantum by real-time PCR, 20 ticks collected from IFAT-positive dogs were all negative. This study shows a high level of exposure to Leishmania spp. infection in dogs from a rural community in northeastern Brazil. In general, the results do not support the participation of ticks as vectors of L. infantum in this area, which is likely to be transmitted by Lutzomyia spp. other than L. longipalpis. Finally, this study highlights that the use of IFAT in areas where both L. infantum and L. braziliensis are present should be withdraw in order to avoid the unnecessary culling of dogs that are actually infected only by L. braziliensis.