The diagnosis of canine leishmaniosis (CanL) is currently predominantly achieved by cytological or histological identification of amastigotes in biopsy samples, demonstration of specific anti-Leishmania antibodies and PCR-based approaches. All these methods have the advantage of being sensitive and more or less specific; nevertheless, most of them also have disadvantages. A chromogenic in situ hybridisation (ISH) procedure with a digoxigenin-labelled probe, targeting a fragment of the 5.8S rRNA was developed for the detection of all species of Leishmania parasites in routinely paraffin wax-embedded canine tissues. This method was validated in comparison with traditional techniques (histology, PCR), on various tissues from three dogs with histological changes consistent with a florid leishmaniosis. Amastigote forms of Leishmania gave clear signals and were easily identified using ISH. Various tissues from 10 additional dogs with clinical suspicion or/and a positive serological test but without histological presence of amastigotes did not show any ISH signals. Potential cross-reactivity of the probe was ruled out by negative outcome of the ISH against selected protozoa (including the related Trypanosoma cruzi) and fungi. Thus, ISH proved to be a powerful tool for unambiguous detection of Leishmania parasites in paraffin wax-embedded tissues.
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