Follow DNDi on LinkedInFollow DNDi on TwitterFollow DNDi on Facebook


What is Leishmaniasis?

Leishmaniasis is a poverty-associated disease with several different forms, of which the two following are the most common: 
  • Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL) (also known as kala azar)fatal without treatment
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL): usually presents as ulcers on exposed body parts (arms, legs, face).
300,000 new cases of VL each year;
1 million new cases of CL each year
Approx. 40,000 deaths due to VL 
1,974,000 DALYs
A lack of surveillance systems and frequency of disease in remote areas and marginalized population means that it is difficult to estimate the true incidence of leishmaniasis and the case-fatality of VL.

* The Global Burden of Disease Report, WHO, 2004.
Leishmaniasis occurs in 98 countries with 350 million people living at risk. 
VL affects poor populations living in remote areas of over 80 countries
across Asia, East Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean region (see map).
The 7 most affected countries – Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, and Sudan – represent over 90% of new cases.
CL has a wider geographic range, with the majority of cases occuring in Afghanistan, Algeria, Colombia, Brazil, Iran, Syria, Ethiopia, Sudan, Costa Rica and Peru.
Leishmaniasis is a diverse and complex disease: more than 20 species of the kinetoplastid protozoan parasite Leishmania can be transmitted to humans by some 30 species of phlebotomines sandflies.
Patient treatment needs for VL
Patients with VL need a treatment which is oral, safe, effective, low cost, and of short course.

Patient treatment needs for CL
A safe, topical or oral well tolerated, and affordable treatment which could cure the lesions quickly without leaving deep scar and that can be deployed within primary healthcare systems for self-treatment without requiring follow up by health workers.
VL is characterised by prolonged fever, enlarged spleen and liver, substantial weight loss, and progressive anemia. These symptoms occur progressively over a period of weeks or even months. Coinfection with other infectious diseases is an increasing concern: HIV-VL coinfection has been reported in 35 countries worldwide. Almost all clinically symptomatic patients die within months if untreated.

CL is characterized by disfiguring skin lesions that are sometimes self-healing within months or years, or become chronic. Although CL is generally not life-threatening, it causes disability and leaves permanent scars that can lead to social prejudice.

Leishmaniasis factsheet Download DNDi Leishmaniasis Fact-sheet
[PDF | 1.8MB]

Tags: Leishmaniasis


350 million people at risk

98 countries affected

300,000 new cases of VL each year

Voices for

Nancy Chemlou is the mother of a child with VL in Kenya.
Read her story

Lemarus Tebakwani Lukeno has been treated with SSG&PM for kala-azar.
Read his story

Except for images, films and trademarks which are subject to DNDi’s Terms of Use, content on this site
is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike 3.0 Switzerland License