rK39 is a recombinant product of the 39 amino acid repeats found in a kinesin-like gene of visceral Leishmania spp. This and other antigens were compared for immunodiagnostic potential by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with sera from confirmed cases of Asian cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis. In preliminary trials, rK39 proved superior to 2 purified Leishmania antigens, a cytosolic protein (p36) and a membrane protein (gp63), for immunodiagnosis of visceral leishmaniasis. Of the 53 visceral cases from China and Pakistan assayed, 52 were seropositive (98%) at a 10(-1) dilution with 36 ng of rK39. End point titrations of 27 highly positive samples yielded anti-rK39 antibody titres ranging from c. 10(-3) to beyond 10(-4). Antigen titrations with one positive serum further revealed that rK39 was 25-fold more sensitive than Leishmania whole cell soluble lysates. 31 cutaneous leishmaniasis cases from Turkey assayed for anti-rK39 antibody gave reactions ranging from negative or marginally positive to positive. In Brazil, all cutaneous and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis cases gave negative results in this assay.