Leishmaniasis is an infectious disease spread by the bite of the female sandfly.
Kala-azar; Cutaneous leishmaniasis; Visceral leishmaniasis; Old world leishmaniasis; New world leishmaniasis
Leishmaniasis is caused by a tiny parasite called leishmania protozoa. Protozoa are one-celled organisms.
The different forms of leishmaniasis are:
Cases of leishmaniasis have been reported on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. In the Americas, the disease can be found in Mexico and South America. It has also been reported in military personnel returning from the Persian Gulf.
Symptoms of cutaneous leishmaniasis depend on where the lesions are located and may include:
Systemic visceral infection in children usually begins suddenly with:
Adults usually have a fever for 2 weeks to 2 months, along with symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, and appetite loss. Weakness increases as the disease gets worse.
Other symptoms of systemic visceral leishmaniasis may include:
Antimony-containing compounds are the main medicines used to treat leishmaniasis. These include:
Other medicines that may be used include:
Plastic surgery may be needed to correct the disfigurement caused by sores on the face (cutaneous leishmaniasis).
Cure rates are high with the proper medicine, mostly when treatment is started before it affects the immune system. Cutaneous leishmaniasis may lead to disfigurement.
Death is usually caused by complications (such as other infections), rather than from the disease itself. Death often occurs within 2 years.
Leishmaniasis may lead to the following:
Contact your provider if you have symptoms of leishmaniasis after visiting an area where the disease is known to occur.
Taking measures to avoid sandfly bites can help prevent leishmaniasis:
Public health measures to reduce sandflies are important. There are no vaccines or medicines that prevent leishmaniasis.
Aronson NE, Copeland NK, Magill AJ. Leishmania species: visceral (kala-azar), cutaneous, and mucosal leishmaniasis. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2020:chap 275.
Bogitsh BJ, Carter CE, Oeltmann TN. Blood and tissue protistans I: hemoflagellates. In: Bogitsh BJ, Carter CE, Oeltmann TN, eds. Human Parasitology. 5th ed. London, UK: Elsevier Academic Press; 2019:chap 6.