A fluorescent DNA probe (LEIS.P1) specific for a conserved region of the small-subunit ribosomal RNA gene of Leishmania and a pair of flanking primers (LEIS.U1 and LEIS.L1) were designed for use in a fluorogenic polymerase chain reaction. Optimal assay conditions with zero background were established to detect low levels of Leishmania from clinical samples. By use of this assay, we amplified DNA from 27 strains of cultured Leishmania (both Old and New World strains) and selectively amplified Leishmania DNA from 12 paraffin-embedded human biopsy samples and 3 fresh human skin biopsy specimens. For the fresh human tissue biopsies, the turnaround time from biopsy to test result was < 24 hr. No amplification was detected in negative control samples (including the kinetoplastid protozoa Trypanosoma rangelli and Crithidia fasiculata). This assay provides a specific and rapid diagnostic modality to detect infection with Leishmania.