The leishmaniases are a widespread and medically important group of parasitic diseases, some of which pose a serious health threat in communities throughout the Mediterranean basin. In 1993, a joint, collaborative study of the Mediterranean leishmaniases was initiated by scientists from Israel, Turkey, Portugal and the Netherlands. The aim of this project was the development of a multi-component approach to the successful control of all forms of leishmaniasis, with special emphasis on the more severe, visceral leishmaniasis (VL). The need for highly sensitive and accurate new tools to facilitate diagnosis and epidemiological surveys of endemic areas and for studies on the immunology of VL in laboratory models (dog and mice) was soon recognized. It is anticipated that the development of these tools and the associated technology will provide a better understanding of the disease and improve its control.