Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in Guatemala: Comparison of Diagnostic Methods

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  • Medical Entomology Research and Training Unit, Division of Parasitic Diseases, Center for Infectious Diseases, Centers for Disease Control, College of Physicians and Surgeons, Columbia University, Atlanta, Georgia

A comparison was made of methods used to diagnose suspected cutaneous leishmaniasis in Guatemala. The most sensitive method was a combination of thin smears made from superficial scrapings of the ulcers and inoculation of culture medium with either aspirates or scrapings. The diagnosis was confirmed in 252 (70%) of 362 patients. Ability to cultivate Leishmania was correlated with the concentration of amastigotes seen on thin smears. Leishmania were cultured in 42 (27%) of 153 patients with no amastigotes found in 400 oil-immersion fields and in 174 (83%) of 209 patients with at least 1 amastigote. No difference in diagnostic outcome was found when we compared smears or cultures taken from the center or the border of the ulcer or from an incision made tangential from the ulcer. We found no difference when we compared smears obtained with scalpels, capillary tubes, or dental broaches. The use of scrub brushes soaked in iodine neither decreased the rate of culturing parasites nor decreased contamination rates.