Cambridge University Press, Parasitology, p. 1-9, 2020
Abstract In areas endemic for Leishmania infantum, an asymptomatic infection may be an indicator of the extent of transmission. The main goal of this study was to evaluate the applicability of measuring circulating immunological biomarkers as an alternative strategy to characterize and monitor L. infantum asymptomatic infections in combination with serological methods. To this end, 179 children from a region endemic for visceral leishmaniasis (VL), aged 1–10 years old, selected from a cross-sectional study, were identified as asymptomatic (n = 81) or uninfected (n = 98) by qPCR and/or serological tests (ELISA using L. infantum soluble antigen and rK39), and, together with serum samples of children diagnosed with VL (n = 43), were subjected to avidity tests and cytokine levels measurement. Avidity rates (AR) ranging from 41 to 70% were found in 29 children (66%) from the asymptomatic group. On the other hand, high AR (above 70%) were observed in 27 children (64%) from the VL group. Logistic Regression and Classification and Regression Tree (CART) analyses demonstrated that lower AR and IFN-γ production associated with higher IL-17A levels were hallmarks in asymptomatic L. infantum infections. Therefore, this study proposes an association of immunological biomarkers that can be used as a complementary strategy for the characterization and monitoring of asymptomatic VL infections in children living in endemic areas.