Leishmaniasis is a protozoan disease in which clinical manifestations depend on both the infecting species of Leishmania and the immune response of the host. Transmission of the disease occurs by the bite of a sandfly infected with Leishmania parasites.

There are four main types of the disease.

  • In the cutaneous form, skin ulcers usually form on exposed areas, such as the face, arms and legs. These usually heal within a few months, leaving scars.
  • Diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis produces disseminated and chronic skin lesions resembling those of lepromatous leprosy. It is difficult to treat.
  • In mucocutaneous forms, the lesions can partially or totally destroy the mucous membranes of the nose, mouth and throat cavities, and surrounding tissues.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis, also called kala azar, is characterized by high fever, substantial weight loss, swelling of the spleen and liver, and anaemia. If left untreated, the disease can have a fatality rate as high as 100% within 2 years.