Visceral leishmaniasis (kala azar) is a disseminated intracellular protozoal infection that targets primarily the reticuloendothelial system (liver, spleen, bone marrow) and is caused by Leishmania donovani, Leishmania chagasi, or Leishmania infantum (L donovani complex). Transmission is by the bite of sandflies. Clinical symptoms include fever, weight loss, and splenomegaly; pancytopenia and hypergammaglobulinemia are often present. Definitive diagnosis has required the microscopic documentation of characteristic intracellular amastigotes in stained smears from culture of aspirates of tissue (spleen, lymph node) or bone marrow. The detection of serum antibodies to the recombinant K39 antigen of L donovani is an alternative noninvasive sensitive (95%-100%) method for the diagnosis of active, visceral leishmaniasis.
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