Kala-azar in a high transmission focus: an ethnic and geographic dimension.

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  • 1 Leishmaniasis Research Group, Institute of Endemic Diseases, University of Khartoum, Sudan.
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In 1994-1996, we studied a group of 58 game wardens stationed in an area known to be highly endemic for visceral leishmaniasis (kala-azar) for evidence of infection with Leishmania donovani. Leishmania DNA was detected by the polymerase chain reaction in the peripheral blood of cases of active kala-azar, former patients with visceral leishmaniasis, patients, and asymptomatic subjects. Using the cloned antigen rk39, antibodies were detected in 44.2% of the game wardens while leishmanin skin test result was positive in 77% of our sample. It was shown that certain tribes from northern Sudan were more likely to develop subclinical infections, while those of the Baria tribe from southern Sudan and those of the Nuba tribe from western Sudan were more likely to develop visceral leishmaniasis. Whether this is due to genetic factors or previous exposure to Leishmania parasites remains to be elucidated.