Use of the polymerase chain reaction for the diagnosis of asymptomatic Leishmania infection in a visceral leishmaniasis-endemic area

Rev Inst Med Trop Sao Paulo. Mar-Apr 2013;55(2):101-4. doi: 10.1590/s0036-46652013000200006.


The diagnosis of asymptomatic infection with Leishmania (Leishmania) chagasi has become more important over recent years. Expansion of visceral leishmaniasis might be associated with other routes of transmission such as transfusion, congenital or even vector transmission, and subjects with asymptomatic infection are potential reservoirs. Moreover, the identification of infection may contribute to the management of patients with immunosuppressive conditions (HIV, transplants, use of immunomodulators) and to the assessment of the effectiveness of control measures. In this study, 149 subjects living in a visceral leishmaniasis endemic area were evaluated clinically and submitted to genus-specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR), serological testing, and the Montenegro skin test. Forty-nine (32.9%) of the subjects had a positive PCR result and none of them developed the disease within a follow-up period of three years. No association was observed between the results of PCR, serological and skin tests. A positive PCR result in subjects from the endemic area did not indicate a risk of progression to visceral leishmaniasis and was not associated with a positive result in the serological tests.

MeSH terms

  • Brazil / epidemiology
  • DNA, Protozoan / genetics*
  • Endemic Diseases*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Humans
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / diagnosis*
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / epidemiology
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Skin Tests


  • DNA, Protozoan