Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transmitted by the bites of infected sand flies. It is found in nearly 88 countries, from rain forests in Central and South America to deserts in the Middle East and west Asia. Some cases of the disease have also appeared in Mexico and Texas. The disease takes several different forms, including the most common cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores, and the more severe visceral leishmaniasis (also known as kala azar), which affects internal organs such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. The World Health Organization estimates there are 1.5 million new cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis and 500,000 new cases of visceral leishmaniasis in the world each year. NIAID conducts and supports leishmaniasis research to advance the understanding of all aspects of the disease, including the different species of disease-causing Leishmania parasites, the varieties of sand flies that trasmit the parasites to animals and humans, and how the host immune system responds to the infection.
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Last Updated February 29, 2012
Last Reviewed November 16, 2010