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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1998 Jan;58(1):102-9.

Simplified polymerase chain reaction detection of new world Leishmania in clinical specimens of cutaneous leishmaniasis.

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  • 1Department of Parasitology, Centro Nacional de Diagnostico y Referencia, Ministerio de Salud, Managua, Nicaragua.


Polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based detection of New World Leishmania from different types of clinical specimens has been further streamlined for field use by simplifying sample preparation and modifying published protocols. A multiplex PCR reaction was developed that allows simultaneous detection of the Leishmania genus and identification of the L. braziliensis complex. For typing isolates in culture, we found that simply boiling diluted cultured strains was sufficient preparation for the PCR. We have demonstrated that Leishmania parasites can be reliably detected from boiled dermal scrapings, instead of the more invasive skin biopsies often used as PCR specimens. The PCR of dermal scrapings yielded a sensitivity of 100% and a specificity of 100%, as compared with microscopic examination. In a study population, PCR was more sensitive than classic diagnostic techniques. The PCR detection of Leishmania in biopsies and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) was investigated. Diluting crude extracts of skin biopsies was sufficient to eliminate sample inhibition yet maintain required sensitivity. Leishmania braziliensis was also detected by PCR in PBMCs of individuals with active cutaneous leishmaniasis. The simplifications described here significantly improve the feasibility of using the PCR in endemic countries as the primary method for detection and preliminary characterization of Leishmania in clinical specimens of cutaneous leishmaniasis.

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