Visceral Leishmaniasis (VL), also known as kala-azar in the Indian sub-continent, is caused by the protozoan parasites
Leishmania donovani and Leishmania infantum (= Leishmania chagasii), and is a potentially fatal disease with a worldwide distribution, in Asia, East Africa, South America and the Mediterranean region. The parasites are transmitted through the bite of female phlebotomine sand flies and in the human host are obligate intracellular parasites of the reticuloendothelial system, surviving and multiplying in different macrophage populations.
Although cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is not life-threatening, it can have devastating effects on local communities. Indeed, the disfiguring lesions it causes can lead to affected persons being stigmatized, with consequences such as ostracism, impaired education, and economic loss – all of this in populations with already limited resources. It can become disseminated and produce generalized debilitating disease in immunosuppressed persons (e.g. HIV-affected patients).