Leishmania is a parasite that eats the flesh of the host infected by it. It causes the disease Leishmaniasis which is endemic to about 92 countries in the world with about two million new cases each year, of which 70,000 people die, as per the US National Institutes of Health data. Now, the experts warn that the disease can spread in North American areas as well, as a result of climate change and human disruption of the natural habitat of these parasites. The disease already exists in tropical regions. In India, the disease is known as Kala azar (Visceral leishmaniasis).
A person can get infected with the Leishmania parasites if they are bitten by infected sand flies. According to scientists, the parasites infect sandflies when they feed on infected rodents’ blood. Leishmaniasis is a disease that has many variations owing to the several variants of the parasite that causes it. Symptoms include lesions to ulcers on the visible parts of the body such as arms, legs and face. Another variant of the disease can cause irregular intense periods of fever, weight loss, swollen spleen and liver and serious anemia. Some variants of the disease can be treated using gentle treatment but treating it as bacterial infections can make it severe. Sometimes the disease heals on its own.
According to a 2010 study, that raised an alarm that by 2020, the disease-causing parasite was expected to reach many US states. By 2080, the scientists predicted, it will put nearly 27 million North Americans at risk of infection.
According to WHO, the disease is one among many neglected tropical diseases that despite causing so many deaths do not grab the key attention of the medical research community, one of the reasons why a fully functional vaccine is still not available for a disease that was discovered hundred years ago.
However, there is a vaccine under clinical trial that showed positive results in its first stage. Scientists claim that the new vaccine can safely stimulate an immune response linked to a cure.