School of Medicine, Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, Hemonorte and Hemovida Blood Banks, Rio Grande do Norte, Institute of Microbiology, University Hospital and School of Medicine, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Natal, Brazil
The prevalence of anti-Leishmania donovani antibodies was investigated in 1,500 Brazilian blood donors and multiply transfused hemodialysis patients. Sera were tested using the fucose-mannose ligand (FML) ELISA, which was shown to have 100% sensitivity and 96% specificity for kala-azar. Among 1,194 volunteer blood donors, seroreactivity was 9%, increasing to 25% in a periurban kala-azar focus. However, higher positivity (37%) was found in multiply transfused hemodialysis patients from Natal, where kala-azar is constantly present in low numbers (endemic), with sporadic outbreaks in localized regions (endemic and epidemic). Risk factors included blood transfusion, which was significantly associated with the presence of anti-Leishmania antibodies (x2 = 8.567, P < 0.005), but did not include potential exposure to sandfly bites (x2 = 0.033, P > 0.1). The prevalence significantly decreased to 7% in hemodialysis patients from Rio de Janeiro, where kala-azar is only occasionally seen, and was 0% in patients undergoing continuous ambulatorial peritoneal dialysis. The prospective analysis of 27 FML-seroreactive donors from Natal revealed amastigotes of Leishmania in the bone marrow of one subject while four had clinical complaints, including splenomegaly and hepatosplenomegaly. Our results point to the need for control of blood transfusion as a possible route for transmission of kala-azar in endemic areas.