Leishmania parasites are maintained by multiple hosts included in seven mammal orders.
Reservoir hosts are the assemblage of species responsible for Leishmania maintenance.
Mammal host– Leishmania interaction determines host competence to infect vectors.
Associate ecological and parasitological data are crucial to understand the wild cycle.
Prevention of human cases is dependent on a thorough knowledge of the wild cycle.
The definition of a reservoir has changed significantly in the last century, making it necessary to study zoonosis from a broader perspective. One important example is that of Leishmania, zoonotic multi-host parasites maintained by several mammal species in nature. The magnitude of the health problem represented by leishmaniasis combined with the complexity of its epidemiology make it necessary to clarify all of the links in transmission net, including non-human mammalian hosts, to develop effective control strategies. Although some studies have described dozens of species infected with these parasites, only a minority have related their findings to the ecological scenario to indicate a possible role of that host in parasite maintenance and transmission. Currently, it is accepted that a reservoir may be one or a complex of species responsible for maintaining the parasite in nature. A reservoir system should be considered unique on a given spatiotemporal scale. In fact, the transmission of Leishmania species in the wild still represents an complex enzootic “puzzle”, as several links have not been identified. This review presents the mammalian species known to be infected with Leishmania spp. in the Americas, highlighting those that are able to maintain and act as a source of the parasite in nature (and are thus considered potential reservoirs). These host/reservoirs are presented separately in each of seven mammal orders – Marsupialia, Cingulata, Pilosa, Rodentia, Primata, Carnivora, and Chiroptera – responsible for maintaining Leishmania species in the wild.