National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis

Despoina Smirlis

Penny Smyrlis

Head of the National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis
& Molecular Parasitology Laboratory

2106478 827
.img@.img CV


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 has been operating since 1986 and its purpose is to monitor leishmaniasis, an important anthropozoonosis caused by protozoa of the genus Leishmania. Leishmaniasis is ranked by WHO, only second parasitic disease after malaria in years of life adapted to disability (DALYs). Leishmaniasis spreads during a blood meal of infected sandflies (Phlebotomus species in the Old World), while animals such as dogs, wolves, and rodents are the natural hosts of the parasite. Leishmaniasis is endemic in Greece and appears with two clinical manifestations, visceral and cutaneous. To date, Leishmania infantum and Leishmania tropica are the causative agents of these forms of the disease in Greece. At the same time, in the greater neighborhood of the Eastern Mediterranean, important changes in the epidemiology of leishmaniasis are observed, due to climate change, population movements (boost of migration flows, tourism, trade activities), and population bottlenecks, resulting in the introduction of new endemic groups and parasite species. In addition, the presence of endemic sandfly species, capable of transmitting new Leishmania species or groups, is an alarm call for Public Health in Greece, which requires ongoing epidemiological surveillance in Greece.
The Hellenic Pasteur Institute has contracted a programmatic agreement with the National Health Organization, to perform diagnostic tests for leishmaniasis and species typing, for enhancing disease surveillance in Greece, and the capacity to efficiently coordinate measures to protect Public Health.


The main activities of the National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis: laboratory testing from biological material of patients (serum, biopsies), isolation and species typing of parasites, epidemiological studies, risk assessment, and informing the Public Health Authorities (EODY). The National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis and the Molecular Parasitology Laboratory of the Hellenic Pasteur Institute, have a large biobank of strains of the Leishmania donovani complex (L. infantum and L. donovani) (>200 strains) from southeastern Europe, which can be used for phenotypic and epidemiological comparisons with new strains.

  • Diagnostic tests for leishmaniasis  EODY Laboratory Surveillance | the Hellenic Pasteur Institute are performed by the Diagnostic Department of the HPΙ | Hellenic Pasteur Institute with serological testing [immunofluorescence antibody test (IFAT)] or with molecular testing (Real-time PCR).
  • The Leishmania Typing and species identification is carried out by Internal Transcribed Spacer 1 (ITS1) sequencing.



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Despina Smirlis, Biochemist-Ph.D.

Principal Investigator,

Head of the National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis and Molecular Parasitology Laboratory,

Τel.: +30 210-6478841, +30 210-6478827

Email: .img@.img


Emmanuel Angelakis, Biopathologist- Clinical Microbiologist,- MD/Ph.D.

Principal Investigator,

Co-responsible for the National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis and Head of the Diagnostics Department,

Τel.: +30 210-6478809

Email: .img@.img


Olga Koutsoni, Ph.D.- Biologist,

Technical Specialist Scientist of the National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis and the Cellular Immunology Laboratory,


Τel.: +30 210-6478825
Email: .img@.img


Eleni Dotsika, DVM-Ph.D

Ex Research Director,

Partner of the National Reference Laboratory for Leishmaniasis and the Cellular Immunology Laboratory,

Tel: +30 210-6478828

Εmail: .img@.img