Interferon-gamma release assay (Modified QuantiFERON) as a potential marker of infection for Leishmania donovani, a proof of concept study

K Gidwani, S Jones, R Kumar, M Boelaert, S Sundar

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    BACKGROUND: In areas endemic for visceral leishmaniasis (VL), a large number of infected individuals mount a protective cellular immune response and remain asymptomatic carriers. We propose an interferon-gamma release assay (IFN-gammaRA) as a novel marker for latent L. donovani infection. METHODS AND FINDINGS: We modified a commercial kit (QuantiFERON) evaluating five different leishmania-specific antigens; H2B, H2B-PSA2, H2B-Lepp12, crude soluble antigen (CSA) and soluble leishmania antigen (SLA) from L. donovani with the aim to detect the cell-mediated immune response in VL. We evaluated the assay on venous blood samples of active VL patients (n = 13), cured VL patients (n = 15), non-endemic healthy controls (n = 11) and healthy endemic controls (n = 19). The assay based on SLA had a sensitivity of 80% (95% CI = 54.81-92.95) and specificity of 100% (95% CI = 74.12-100). CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that a whole-blood SLA-based QuantiFERON assay can be used to measure the cell-mediated immune response in L. donovani infection. The positive IFN-gamma response to stimulation with leishmania antigen in patients with active VL was contradictory to the conventional finding of a non-proliferative antigen-specific response of peripheral blood mononuclear cells and needs further research.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
    Issue number4
    Pages (from-to)e1042
    Number of pages5
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


    • B780-tropical-medicine
    • Protozoal diseases
    • Kala azar
    • Visceral
    • Leishmaniasis
    • Leishmania donovani
    • Vectors
    • Sandflies
    • Phlebotomus argentipes
    • Markers
    • Latent infection
    • Immune response
    • Asymptomatic infections
    • Antigen detection
    • Evaluation
    • Interferon-gamma
    • Assays
    • Specificity
    • Sensitivity
    • Laboratory techniques and procedures


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