Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of certain species of sandflies. Quite common in the Middle East, it is found in about 90 tropical and subtropical countries, in regions ranging from rain forests to deserts.
Visceral leishmaniasis usually causes fever, weight loss, an enlarged spleen and liver, and occasionally, swollen glands and anemia. Typically, symptoms develop months—or years—after the patient is bitten. Untreated cases often prove fatal.
In Africa, leishmaniasis is more prevalent in the northern regions, including Algeria and Sudan. In Asia, it is more common toward the west, including India and Bangladesh. In the western hemisphere, leishmaniasis affects people from northern Mexico—and occasionally rural southern Texas—to northern Argentina. Leishmaniasis is not found in Southeast Asia, Australia or the Pacific islands.
No vaccines or drugs for preventing leishmaniasis are currently available.
Additional information on leishmaniasis can be found on the Division of Parasitic Diseases' website at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dpd/parasites/leishmania/factsht_leishmania.htm.
Leishmaniasis is caused by a protozoan (single-celled) parasite of the genus Leishmania that is transmitted by phlebotomine sandflies. There are 21 species of Leishmania that infect people.
Sandflies inject the parasite while feeding, and it is engulfed by amoeba-like macrophage cells—a type of white blood cell that works to rid the body of infections. The parasite transforms itself inside macrophages, which are then ingested by sandflies when they bite an infected host. The final stage of the life cycle takes place in the gut of the sandfly, and the parasite is then injected into a new host when the sandfly bites again.
Leishmania life cycle
Is there leishmaniasis in the United States?
There have been a few cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis in southern Texas. No cases of visceral leishmaniasis have ever been reported in the United States.
How is leishmaniasis treated?
Most cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis do not need to be treated, but a physician should make that decision. There are several medications available to treat both forms of leishmaniasis.
Is there a vaccine for leishmaniasis?
No, there is currently no vaccine for either form of leishmaniasis.
How can I protect myself from leishmaniasis?
If you travel to regions where leishmaniasis is endemic (i.e., Iraq, Afghanistan, etc.), be sure to take measures to prevent sandfly bites. Insect Shield® Repellent Apparel is proven protection against sandflies that can carry leishmaniasis.