National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis

Eleni Dotsika


The National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis is in operation since 1986 and its mission is the surveillance of visceral leishmaniasis (Κala-Azar), an endemic zoonoses caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania infantum. The disease is spread during the blood meal of the infected shadfly (diptera belonging to the genders Phlebotomus και Sergentomyia), while species like the dog, wolf, jackal or rodents and other wild animals serve as a natural reservoir. In the urban areas, the dog is the main reservoir. Among its main tasks are included laboratory control of sera from patients and dogs, the isolation and typing of parasites, conduction of epidemiological surveys and information of the Public Health Authorities (HCDCP).
The National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis produces in mass quantities and delivers specific reagents used in the serological and molecular detection of the parasite. These reagents are granted to the Diagnostic Department of HPI and the Regional Veterinarian Laboratories of the Ministry of Agriculture. The annual number of samples is approximately 3000 dog and 250 human sera. Anti-leishmania specific antibodies in sera are detected by indirect immunofluorescence (IFAT) whereas molecular detection and quantification of the parasite in blood or biopsy speciments is performed by RT-PCR.