The biological diagnosis of leishmaniasis in HIV-infected patients

Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2003 Oct;97 Suppl 1:115-33. doi: 10.1179/000349803225002598.


This review emphasises the particular difficulties encountered in confirming a suspected case of cutaneous or visceral leishmaniasis when that case is co-infected with HIV. HIV infection appears to have a more profound impact on the development of visceral leishmaniasis than on the evolution of the purely cutaneous disease. The various techniques available for immunological, parasitological and molecular diagnosis are presented and evaluated. The value of serodiagnosis for the detection of antileishmanial antibodies is in part dependent on the antigens used. Western blots may have a use not only in diagnosis but also in predicting the cases of HIV infection that are at most risk of developing symptomatic leishmaniasis. The presence of leishmanial parasites may still only be demonstrated incontrovertibly by the microscopical examination of smears or the culture of blood or biopsy samples. The use of cultures not only permits diagnosis but also detailed study of the parasites. The potential use of PCR in diagnosis is explored and related to other possible tests. A recommended, standardized procedure for the diagnosis of leishmaniasis in HIV-infected patients is presented.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / diagnosis*
  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / immunology
  • Animals
  • DNA, Protozoan / analysis
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology
  • Immunocompetence / immunology
  • Leishmania / isolation & purification
  • Leishmaniasis / diagnosis*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / diagnosis
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / immunology
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / diagnosis
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / immunology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction / methods
  • Serologic Tests / methods


  • DNA, Protozoan