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Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease spread by the bite of the sandfly.
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.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis affects the skin and sometimes the mucus membranes. Symptoms may include:
Systemic visceral infection in children usually begins suddenly with vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and cough. 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:
A physical exam may show signs of an enlarged spleen, liver, and lymph nodes. The patient may have been bitten by sandflies, or was in an area known for leishmaniasis.
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). Patients with drug-resistant viral leishmaniasis may need to have their spleen removed (splenectomy).
Cure rates are high with the proper medicine. Patients should get treated before damage to the immune system occurs. 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.
Contact your health care provider if you have symptoms of leishmaniasis after visiting an area where the disease is known to occur.
Preventing sandfly bites is the most immediate form of protection. You can prevent a bite by:
Public health measures to reduce the sandfly population and animal reservoirs are important. There are no preventive vaccines or drugs for leishmaniasis.
Jeronimo SMB, DeQueiroz-Sousa A, Pearson RD. Leishmaniasis. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2007:chap 369.
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