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).



50,000-90,000 new cases of visceral leishmaniasis annually
600,000-1,000,000 new cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis annually
About 20,000-30,000 deaths due to visceral leishmaniasis annually
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.


  • Over 1 billion people are at risk of leishmaniasis.
  • Visceral leishmaniasis affects poor populations living in remote areas of over 80 countries across Asia, East Africa, South America, and the Mediterranean region.
  • 90% of new VL cases occurred in seven countries: Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan
  • The majority of CL cases occur in six countries, with the majority of cases occurring in Afghanistan, Algeria, Brazil, Colombia, Iran, and Syria.


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.


VL is characterized 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 36 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.

WorldLeish 6

DNDi and Instituto de Salud Carlos III co-organized World Leish 6. Find out more about World Leish 6




DNDi aims to deliver:

  • A safe, effective, low-cost and short-course, oral treatment for VL.

  • A new treatment for PKDL that is shorter and better tolerated than current options.

  • A new treatment regimen for patients co-infected with HIV and VL.

  • A safe, effective, and shorter-course treatment for CL.



Fact sheet

 Leishmaniasis Fact Sheet

Disease brief

Towards a new generation of treatments for leishmaniasis
New partnerships and new R&D strategies

Visual patient story

The disease that strikes back
Can post-kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis threaten progress against kala-azar?




africoleish_logoThe research and development project AfriCoLeish is supported by the European Union Seventh Framework Programme (EU FP7).

Visit the AfriCoLeish website