Experimental evidence on the nature of the antigen in the direct agglutination test for visceral leishmaniasis

Vera Kühne, Ruben Verstraete, Xaveer van Ostade, Philippe Büscher

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The direct agglutination test (DAT) for visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is the serodiagnostic test for VL that has the most robust sensitivity and specificity in the field across all endemic regions. It is based on trypsin-treated and formaldehyde-fixed whole promastigote cells from Leishmania donovani. The exact identity and nature of the epitopes on the DAT antigen that cause agglutination with VL patients' sera are currently unknown. In this study, we performed antigen-inhibition studies which revealed that lipophosphoglycan (LPG) and the DAT antigen share epitopes. Antibody inhibition with a monoclonal antibody directed against the phosphoglycan repeat epitope of LPG showed that this is not the epitope that reacts with human sera. Oxidation of carbohydrates by sodium metaperiodate did not alter the reactivity of human sera with the DAT antigen and LPG. This indicates that carbohydrates do not play a role in the reaction of the DAT antigen with antibodies in serum from VL patients, and that they also are not involved in the reaction of LPG with the same serum. We conclude that the noncarbohydrate moiety of LPG, that is, the core-anchor fragment, and potentially other noncarbohydrate epitopes on the surface of the DAT antigen are responsible for its agglutination with antibodies from VL patients. As LPG plays a role in the DAT reaction, this could facilitate the following: 1) incorporation of LPG, preferably the synthetic version of the core-anchor fragment, into an immunochromatographic test format that is more adapted as a point-of-care test (short incubation, little training, and equipment needed) than DAT and 2) enhancing the quality control for the production of the DAT antigen.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAmerican Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)788-796
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2020


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