Leishmaniasis affects some of the poorest people in the world. It is found in parts of Asia, Africa, the Americas and southern Europe. The disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania and is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected plebotomine sandflies. In some cases there may be an animal reservoir host.

There are three main forms of the disease:

  • Visceral leishmaniasis (also known as VL or kala-azar) affects internal organs such as the liver and spleen. VL is fatal if not treated. A condition called post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL) may arise six months or more after apparent cure from VL. This manifests as a rash and occurs mainly in East Africa and in the Indian subcontinent.
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) causes skin lesions. It is the most common form of the disease.
  • Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis affects the mucous lining of the nose, mouth and throat. It can cause disfigurement which leads to stigma of those who are badly affected.

Poor socio-economic conditions and malnutrition are among the risk factors of leishmaniasis.

TDR related research

TDR supports research to eliminate visceral leishmaniasis.

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