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Multilocus microsatellite signature and identification of specific molecular markers for Leishmania aethiopica

Nigatu Kebede123, Steve Oghumu24, Alemayehu Worku3, Asrat Hailu5, Sanjay Varikuti2 and Abhay R Satoskar2*

Author Affiliations

1 Aklilu Lemma Institute of Pathobiology, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

2 Department of Pathology, College of Medicine, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, Columbus OH 43210, USA

3 Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

4 Department of Oral Biology, College of Dentistry, Ohio State University, Columbus, OH 43210, USA

5 Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, School of Medicine, Addis Ababa University, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

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Parasites & Vectors 2013, 6:160  doi:10.1186/1756-3305-6-160

Published: 4 June 2013



Leishmaniasis is a clinically and epidemiologically diverse zoonotic disease caused by obligatory, intracellular protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania. Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the most widely distributed form of the disease characterized by skin lesions. Leishmania aethiopica is considered the predominant etiological agent in Ethiopia. The current study was aimed at developing multilocus microsatellite markers for L. aethiopica isolated from human cutaneous leishmaniasis patients in Ethiopia.


L. aethiopica parasites for the study were obtained from Ethiopia and laboratory analysis was conducted at The Ohio State University. DNA was extracted from cultured parasites and an internal transcribed spacer located at the ribosomal region of L. aethiopica genomic DNA was PCR amplified for species identification. Microsatellite markers were identified using multilocus microsatellite typing. We generated an enriched genomic library, and using Primer3 software, designed PCR primers to amplify sequences flanking the detected microsatellites. Subsequent screening of the amplified markers for length variations was performed by gel electrophoresis.

Using a variety of molecular methods, 22 different microsatellite markers were identified and tested for typing L. aethiopica strains using a number of clinical isolates. Of the 22 markers tested, 5 were polymorphic and showed distinctive multilocus genotypes, classifying them into four clusters. One marker was found to be specific for L. aethiopica, discriminating it from other species of Leishmania.


Multilocus microsatellite typing using the markers developed in this study could be useful for epidemiological and population genetic studies of strains of L. aethiopica in order to investigate the structure and dynamics of the corresponding natural foci. It could also help to answer specific clinical questions, such as the occurrence of local and diffuse lesions, strain correlates of parasite persistence after subclinical infection and lesion comparisons from patients suffering from L. aethiopica infections.

Leishmania aethiopica; Microsatellite markers; Ethiopia