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Research Feature

photo of a sand fly with Leishmania parasites inside

The sex lives of Leishmania parasites lead to a new understanding of leishmaniasis. Read Parasite Sex Provides New Way to Understand Leishmaniasis.


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Leishmaniasis

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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.

Leishmaniasis 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 Leishmaniasis Research Program

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 transmit the parasites to animals and humans, and how the host immune system responds to the infection.

Research

Last Updated February 29, 2012

Last Reviewed November 16, 2010