Assessment of the sensitivity and specificity of serological (IFAT) and molecular (direct-PCR) techniques for diagnosis of leishmaniasis in lagomorphs using a Bayesian approach

María Luisa de la Cruz, Andres Pérez, Mercedes Domínguez, Inmaculada Moreno, Nerea García, Irene Martínez, Alejandro Navarro, Lucas Domínguez, Julio Álvarez

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7 Scopus citations


Leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania infantum, is a vector-borne zoonotic disease that is endemic to the Mediterranean basin. The potential of rabbits and hares to serve as competent reservoirs for the disease has recently been demonstrated, although assessment of the importance of their role on disease dynamics is hampered by the absence of quantitative knowledge on the accuracy of diagnostic techniques in these species. A Bayesian latent-class model was used here to estimate the sensitivity and specificity of the Immuno-fluorescence antibody test (IFAT) in serum and a Leishmania-nested PCR (Ln-PCR) in skin for samples collected from 217 rabbits and 70 hares from two different populations in the region of Madrid, Spain. A two-population model, assuming conditional independence between test results and incorporating prior information on the performance of the tests in other animal species obtained from the literature, was used. Two alternative cut-off values were assumed for the interpretation of the IFAT results: 1/50 for conservative and 1/25 for sensitive interpretation. Results suggest that sensitivity and specificity of the IFAT were around 70–80%, whereas the Ln-PCR was highly specific (96%) but had a limited sensitivity (28.9% applying the conservative interpretation and 21.3% with the sensitive one). Prevalence was higher in the rabbit population (50.5% and 72.6%, for the conservative and sensitive interpretation, respectively) than in hares (6.7% and 13.2%). Our results demonstrate that the IFAT may be a useful screening tool for diagnosis of leishmaniasis in rabbits and hares. These results will help to design and implement surveillance programmes in wild species, with the ultimate objective of early detecting and preventing incursions of the disease into domestic and human populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)211-220
Number of pages10
JournalVeterinary Medicine and Science
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is a contribution to the EU FP7 ANTIGONE Project (278976) and was partially supported by structural funds of the European Union, S2013/ ABI-2747 (TAVS), and by the program I+D “Vigi-lancia Sanitaria” from the local government of Madrid.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016 The Authors. Veterinary Medicine and Science Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • Bayesian modelling
  • Diagnosis
  • IFAT
  • Lagomorphs
  • Leishmania infantum
  • Ln-PCR


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