Western Blot Analysis of Antibodies to Leishmania infantum Antigens: Potential of the 14-KD and 16-KD Antigens for Diagnosis and Epidemiologic Purposes

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  • Laboratoire de Parasitologie, Faculte de Medecine, Marseille, France

When infected with Leishmania species, patients develop specific antibodies that constitute the basis of serodiagnosis. Using Western blot analysis, we studied the specificity of anti-L. infantum antibodies in patients with visceral leishmaniasis (including patients with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome [AIDS]) and in healthy subjects living in an endemic area. Sera from patients with visceral leishmaniasis recognized numerous antigens that had a molecular mass range of 12–120 kD. The 14-, 16-, 28–30-, 46-, and 68-kD antigens were recognized by 92%, 95%, 63%, 80%, 69%, and 89% of the patients' sera, respectively. The 14–16-kD antigens had the greatest specificity for leishmaniasis. The same pattern was found with sera from AIDS patients with proven leishmaniasis, but the 14-kD band was not present in some cases; recognition of the 16-kD band was constant. In these patients, Western blotting characterized specific antibodies even when the results of classic serologic tests (indirect immunofluorescent antibody test and enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay) were negative. Western blotting was found to be more sensitive than the IFA and ELISA, and it was used to detect antibodies to the 14-, 16-, 22-, and 24-kD antigens in subjects living in an endemic area. The detection of antibodies for the 14-kD and 16-kD Leishmania antigens would be a valuable tool both in the diagnosis of visceral leishmaniasis and in epidemiologic studies.