BACKGROUND: Visceral leishmaniosis caused by infection with the zoonotic protozoan Leishmania infantum is a life-threatening disease affecting dogs and humans. The sympatric occurrence of L. infantum and Leishmania tarentolae in an area of southern Italy endemic for canine leishmaniosis, where dogs are also exposed to the latter species, suggests the persistence of herpetophilic L. tarentolae in a non-permissive host, therefore raising questions about the performance of serological diagnostic tests routinely employed. METHODS: The diagnostic performance of serological tests such as the immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT), two commercial immunoenzymatic assays (i.e. NovaTec VetLine Leishmania ELISA® and rK39 ICT®) and an in-house enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was evaluated in healthy dogs seropositive to L. infantum, whereas the only IFAT available was used to detect antibodies to L. tarentolae. RESULTS: With the IFAT, out of a total of 104 dogs tested, 15 were seronegative for L. infantum of which three were L. tarentolae seropositive' and 89 were L. infantum seropositive. Of the latter 89 dogs, representing the highest proportion of seropositive animals (85.6%) detected by IFAT' 66 were also seropositive for L. tarentolae. Cohen's kappa (κ) agreement coefficient between the IFAT results and those of all the other tests was very low, and the IFAT results were significantly different from those of all the other serological tests as calculated by Cochran's Q-test. Analysis using the Bayesian latent class (Bayes-LCA) showed that the in-house ELISA and IFAT contributed the most towards identifying infected and non-infected dogs, respectively. The IFAT test showed low positive predictive value (59.5%), but high negative predictive value (100%). CONCLUSIONS: These results demonstrate that the IFAT for L. infantum, although highly sensitive, may not be considered a useful diagnostic test due to its low specificity. Therefore, an accurate serological tool with high specificity is mandatory for avoiding cross-reaction in epidemiological contexts where the two species of Leishmania occur in sympatry.
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- Canine leishmaniosis
- Leishmania spp.
- Serological tests