The precise identification and classification of Leishmania species is important for public health surveillance since different species cause different clinical features of the disease. A highly specific polymerase chain reaction (PCR) panel was developed to enable the identification of the five major Leishmania species that cause New World cutaneous leishmaniases. The primers used for this panel were designed to distinguish the polymorphism in sequences of commonly amplified DNA bands of the parasites produced by arbitrarily primed PCR. These polymorphism-specific PCR diagnoses were performed with formalin-fixed biopsy specimens of the leishmanial lesions from four patients in Ecuador and one hamster skin lesion, and these lesions were determined to be caused by Leishmania (Viannia) panamensis, L. (Leishmania) mexicana, and L. (L.) amazonensis. The PCR panel may offer an important and practical approach to the standardized identification of Leishmania species in field examinations.
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