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.
There are different forms of leishmaniasis.
Cases of leishmaniasis have been reported on all continents except Australia and Antarctica. In the Americas, leishmaniasis can be found in Mexico and South America. Leishmaniasis has 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:
Other symptoms of systemic visceral leishmaniasis may include:
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider will examine you and may find that your spleen, liver, and lymph nodes are enlarged. You will be asked if you recall being bitten by sandflies or if you've been in an area where leishmaniasis is common.
Tests that may be done to diagnose the condition include:
Other tests that may be done include:
Medicines called antimony-containing compounds are the main drugs used to treat leishmaniasis. These include:
Other drugs 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, especially when treatment is started before the immune system is damaged. 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:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
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 drugs that prevent leishmaniasis.
Boelaert M, Sundar S. Leishmaniasis. In: Farrar J, Hotez PJ, Junghanss T, Kang G, Lalloo D, White NJ, eds. Manson's Tropical Diseases. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2014:chap 47.
Magill AJ. Leishmania species. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 277.
Review Date: 9/27/2017
Reviewed By: Jatin M. Vyas, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor in Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Assistant in Medicine, Division of Infectious Disease, Department of Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, MA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.