Sunday, March 18, 2007

Rare Tropical Diseases - Leishmaniasis

Now, this obtuse word even pops up in the Wikipedia Top 10 infectious nasties.

A kind lady posted a comment on our intro to rare tropical diseases about something her husband picked up while in Iraq, that seems to be under the radar of American doctors. It sounded interesting, and Andy asked me to look it up and post something.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease transferred by the bites of sand flies. There are many different forms of this parasite, depending on which part of the world you're in. Evidently, it also resides in the Iraqi desert. Specfically, the Middle Eastern version is L major. NOT to be confused with:

*L tropica (the vector could get you while lazing in the hammock)
*L braziliensis (never known to wear revealing swimsuits)
*L mexicana (can not be cured by excessive tequila consumption)

So, what happens? All leishmania cause slightly different physical symptoms but can be divided into visceral (body organs), cutaneous (skin), mucocutaneous (wet mucussy skin - inside mouth and nose).

Simply put, you get multiple ulcerating or nodular lumps on your body. The visceral one even causes enlarged liver and spleen, gum bleeding and wasting. Yummy.

Worst part of all, as suspected by our kind commentor, treatment remains inadequete because of drug toxicity, long courses required and frequent need for hospitalisation.

Best of luck to the American Military Doctors who have to differentiate it from leukaemia, lymphoma, tuberculosis, brucellosis and typhoid (that's just a few).

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