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).



  • 200,000 – 400,000 new cases of visceral leishmaniasis each year (although with a marked reduction in the number of cases observed in the Indian subcontinent)
  • 700,000 – 1,200,000 new cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis each year
  • About 20,000 – 30,000 deaths due to leishmaniasis annually [1]

A lack of surveillance systems and frequency of disease in remote areas and marginalized populations means that it is difficult to estimate the true incidence of leishmaniasis and the case-fatality of visceral leishmaniasis.



  • Leishmaniasis occurs in 98 countries with 350 million people living at risk.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis affects poor populations living in remote areas of over 80 countries across Asia, East Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean region.
  • The 7 most affected countries – Bangladesh, Brazil, India, Ethiopia, Kenya, Nepal, and Sudan – represent over 90% of new cases.
  • Cutaneous leishmaniasis has a wider geographic range, with the majority of cases occurring 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 visceral leishmaniasis

Patients with visceral leishmaniasis need a treatment which is oral, safe, effective, low cost, and of short course.


Patient treatment needs for cutaneous leishmaniasis

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.



Visceral leishmaniasis 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. Co-infection with other infectious diseases is an increasing concern: HIV-VL co-infection has been reported in 35 countries worldwide. Almost all clinically symptomatic patients die within months if untreated.Cutaneous leishmaniasis is characterized by disfiguring skin lesions that are sometimes self-healing within months or years, or become chronic. Although cutaneous leishmaniasis is generally not life-threatening, it causes disability and leaves permanent scars that can lead to social prejudice.


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Fact sheet

Leishmaniasis Fact Sheet cover DNDi Leishmaniasis Fact Sheet


Leishmaniasis R&D Pipeline

DNDi Leishmaniasis R&D Pipeline UpdateLeishmaniasis R&D Pipeline 2017 - cover




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[1] WHO Fact Sheet, March 2016