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REVIEW ARTICLE
Year : 2016  |  Volume : 53  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 8-16

Laboratory diagnosis of human visceral leishmaniasis


Microbiology Department, Faculty of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, University of Ioannina, Greece

Correspondence Address:
Hercules Sakkas
Microbiology Department, Faculty of Medicine, School of Health Sciences, University of Ioannina, P.O Box 1186, Ioannina- 45110
Greece
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


PMID: 27004573

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Visceral leishmaniasis (VL), caused by the Leishmania donovani complex, is a vector-borne systemic disease, with a worldwide distribution causing high morbidity and mortality in the developing world. VL patients may be asymptomatic or they may present symptoms and findings of a systemic infection. The positive predictive value of clinical diagnosis in patients with typical symptoms is usually high, but more often, the signs and symptoms are inconclusive and mistaken with other co-endemic diseases. The fact that HIV co-infections often produce atypical presentations and the heterogeneity of Leishmania species, which is common in many endemic regions, also complicate the diagnosis. Despite that, some of the parasitological methods are still considered to be the reference standard for VL diagnosis due to their specificity. The development of serological and molecular tests has further enhanced the diagnostic approach of VL. Recombinant antigens have improved the performance of serodiagnostic tests, with DAT and the rK39 antigen based immunochromatographic test being the most appropriate methods for the serological diagnosis of VL. Molecular techniques, despite the fact that their implementation is often difficult and infeasible, have become increasingly relevant due to remarkable sensitivity and specificity, and to the variability of tested samples. Quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) has been shown to be superior than conventional PCR for the differentiation between active VL and asymptomatic infections, such as for the detection of VL-HIV coinfection. This review summarizes the available methods with their applications in the diagnosis of VL, and focuses on the recent developments in VL diagnostics.


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