The extent of cryptic leishmaniasis in blood donors from a Spanish endemic area, (Eivissa Island) was studied using various immunological and parasitological methods. Sera from 656 blood donors were analysed: 16 (2.4%) were positive by ELISA and 50 (7.6%) by Western blot. Peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) and buffy coat (BC) samples, were analyzed by culture and nested-PCR. DNA of L. infantum was amplified in 27 (22.1%) of 122 PBMC. Parasites were isolated in 3 (4.5%) of 67 BC cultures and the strains were identified as L. infantum zymodeme MON-28. No parasites were isolated in PBMC culture. After 12 months, a second blood sample was obtained from 18 blood donors who were positive by nested-PCR in the first extraction; nine of them remained positive. Delayed type hypersensitivity (DTH) tests on 15/67 donors (22.3%) were positive. Comparison of results obtained by ELISA, WB and DTH; ELISA, WB and nested-PCR and nested-PCR and BC culture showed a significant association (Pearson test, P<0.05). L. infantum zymodeme MON-28 was identified in three strains isolated from asymptomatic donors, which suggests a low virulence capacity of these strains. The detection of Leishmania DNA in a high number of asymptomatic subjects supports the need to monitor it in blood donors endemic areas.

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