Detection of Leishmania donovani in peripheral blood of asymptomatic individuals in contact with patients with visceral leishmaniasis

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BackgroundThe majority of individuals infected with Leishmania donovani complex remain asymptomatic. They may act as transmission reservoirs for visceral leishmaniasis (VL). We investigated sero-prevalence of L. donovani complex amongst those closely associated with patients with VL and whether these sero-reactive individuals had Leishmania parasites in their peripheral blood. Other risk factors were also investigated.MethodsA total of 257 individuals in contact with patients with VL were tested for anti-Leishmania antibodies by rK39 immunochromatographic test (rK39 ICT), ELISA using promastigote antigen (p-ELISA) and indirect fluorescent antibody test (IFAT). Buffy coats of rK39 ICT positive individuals were cultured; sero-reactive buffy coats were tested for Leishmania DNA by ITS1 PCR. DNA obtained from culture was sequenced to confirm Leishmania species. Risk factors were evaluated for each sero-positive sample.ResultsThe results showed 29.2% (75/257) prevalence by serological tests: 14.4% (37/257) were positive by rK39 ICT, 25.3% (65/257) by p-ELISA, 18.3% (47/257) by IFAT and 10.9% (28/257) by all three serological methods. Ten percent (3/30) of cultures were positive for Leishmania promastigotes. Only 3% (2/74) sero-reactive buffy coats were positive for DNA; sequence analysis revealed L. donovani species. Significant risk factors were age, working as farmers, domestic animals in household and proximity to animal shelters.ConclusionsAsymptomatic family members of patients with VL can carry live L. donovani in peripheral blood and may act as potential reservoirs.GenBank accession numberBankIt1863680 Leishmania KT921417 (DNA sequences of the ribosomal ITS1 region of L. donovani).

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