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Serological and Molecular Analysis of Leishmania Infection in Healthy Individuals from Two Districts of West Bengal, India, Endemic for Visceral Leishmaniasis

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  • 1 National Institute of Pathology (Indian Council of Medical Research), Safdarjung Hospital Campus, New Delhi, India.

Several epidemiological studies have indicated the presence of asymptomatic infections with Leishmania donovani in the Indian subcontinent, where parasite transmission is considered anthroponotic. In India, such asymptomatic Leishmania cases have been identified in the state of Bihar. We explored here, the presence of asymptomatic Leishmania infection among healthy individuals living in two districts in the state of West Bengal, India, using serological and molecular tests. Blood samples of 246 healthy individuals were collected from nine villages of Malda and Murshidabad districts in West Bengal, considered endemic for visceral leishmaniasis (VL). Real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (qPCR) was performed for the quantification of parasite load in the blood. In addition, two serological tests were carried out to demonstrate anti-Leishmania antibodies: rK39 strip test and anti-total soluble Leishmania antigen IgG using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay method. Nearly one-fifth (53/246) of the screened population was positive in qPCR as against 10.97% (27/246) positive in rK39 strip test. A range of parasite load was observed in the blood of identified asymptomatic Leishmania cases with a median value of 7.7 parasites/mL (range = 1–65). There was poor agreement between qPCR and serological tests (κ = 0.089, P = 0.13), and 29.62% and 20.54% of the population were qPCR positive in seropositive and seronegative groups, respectively. Combined molecular and serological tests enhanced the capacity to detect asymptomatic Leishmania infection in healthy individuals residing in the endemic areas of VL. A significant proportion of asymptomatic Leishmania individuals was detected in the examined endemic regions of West Bengal that might play a role in promoting VL transmission.

Author Notes

* Address correspondence to Poonam Salotra, National Institute of Pathology (Indian Council of Medical Research), Safdarjung Hospital Campus, New Delhi 110029, India. E-mail: salotra@vsnl.com

Financial support: The work received financial assistance from The National Academy of Sciences, India.

Disclosure: Himanshu Kaushal is registered PhD student at the Department of Biological Sciences, Birla Institute of Technology and Science, Pilani, India.

Authors' addresses: Himanshu Kaushal, Sujit Kumar Bhattacharya, Sandeep Verma, and Poonam Salotra, Molecular Parasitology Laboratory, National Institute of Pathology, New Delhi, India, E-mails: hkarya@gmail.com, sujitkbhattacharya@yahoo.com, sanip_verma6@yahoo.co.in, and salotra@vsnl.com.

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