The rK39 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was compared with the direct agglutination test (DAT) for Leishmania donovani infection in the Sudan. rK39 ELISA proved more sensitive than DAT in diagnosis of kala-azar (93 and 80%, respectively); both tests may remain positive up to 24 months after treatment. For patients with post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis and individuals with subclinical infection, rK39 ELISA performed as well as DAT but could detect infection 6 months earlier in approximately 40% of patients. Conversion in DAT and rK39 ELISA also occurred in leishmanin skin test (LST)-positive individuals, suggesting active parasite replication (rK39 is an amastigote antigen) in these presumably immune individuals. In contrast to DAT, rK39 ELISA also detected infection in randomly selected LST-positive individuals (in four of six) and endemicity (LST-negative) controls (in one of five). rK39 ELISA appears more sensitive than DAT and may prove an important tool in epidemiological studie
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