Neglected tropical diseases

Leishmaniasis: the global trend

30 January 09 | Geneva

©Huaco, Museum of America, Madrid

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of the sand fly. Up to 350 million people are at risk in 88 countries around the world. Leishmaniasis has a wide range of clinical symptoms.

Visceral leishmaniasis is the most severe form of the disease and attacks the internal organs. Untreated, this form of leishmaniasis is fatal within two years.

Cutaneous leishmaniasis is the most common form of the disease. It causes ulcers on the face, arms and legs. And although the ulcers heal spontaneously, they cause serious disability and leave severe and permanent disfiguring scars. Discrimination, stigma and sub-standard living conditions are associated with cutaneous leishmaniasis. Epidemics are specially devastating in refugee camps.

An estimated 12 million people are currently infected and around 2 million infections occur each year.

Play now audio summary–Leishmaniasis
00:02:43 [mp3 1,70Mb]

Watch presentation–Leishmaniasis
00:03:30 [wmv 160 kb]
(To watch full length documentaries, follow links below)


"Leishmaniansis control is facing new challenges and although current tools are limited, WHO has set up regional programmes aimed at improving health systems to allow access to innovation.

More partnership agreements are being signed with pharmaceutical companies, non-governmental organizations and research agencies to develop new diagnostic tools. A new drug combination is also emerging, based on solid scientific information to treat leishmaniasis patients”.

Dr Jorge Alvar, WHO Scientist, Department of Control of Neglected Tropical Diseases

Coinfection with visceral leishmaniasis and HIV is becoming an ominous global trend. In persons infected with HIV, leishmaniasis accelerates the onset of AIDS by cumulative immunosuppression and by stimulating replication of the virus.

Due to co infection, visceral leishmaniasis is no longer restricted to endemic areas and the number of cases of visceral leishmaniasis and HIV co infection will continue to rise.

In southern Europe, for example, up to 70% of adult cases of visceral leishmaniasis are associated with HIV infection. In some areas of Ethiopia, 35% of all leishmaniasis patients are co infected with HIV, and the trend is spreading to neighbouring countries such as Sudan.

Watch three full length documentaries on Kala-Azar: (.wmv), streaming mode.

English versions
Mucocutaneous Leishmaniasis in Peru | Kala-Azar in Nepal | Kala-Azar in Ethiopia

Spanish versions
Leishmaniasis mucocutánea en Perú | Kala-Azar en Nepal | Kala-Azar en Etiopía


:: Leishmaniasis Expert's Panel Meeting, WHO/HQ, Geneva,
22-26 March 2010
www.who.int/leishmaniasis