Washington DC, United States: In a recent study presented on Thursday, a new strain of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis has been identified in the United States. This surprising discovery points to the transmission of the Leishmania parasite by sand flies, a previously unexpected source of the disease.
The research, presented during an annual session, involved a sample size of 1,222 people. The study revealed that the disease was commonly found among individuals who had traveled internationally. Out of the participants, 1,136 had a history of international travel, while 86 had not traveled abroad.
The researchers have raised concerns about this emerging health threat in the United States. Sand flies are now implicated in the transmission of the Leishmania parasite, which can lead to various diseases, including the troublesome skin sores known as cutaneous leishmaniasis. Globally, this health issue affects around a million people annually, with hotspots in regions like the Middle East, Central Asia, northern Asia, and Latin America.
Furthermore, there is a more severe form of this disease known as visceral leishmaniasis, which can directly affect vital organs such as the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. In the United States, infected dogs are responsible for transmitting the disease to sand flies, which, in turn, can transmit it to humans.
This growing presence of the disease in the United States was discussed at a recent meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Chicago. Researchers are alarmed by the changing climate, which is creating a favorable environment for disease-carrying sand flies due to increased warmth and humidity.
Christine Petersen, one of the researchers, emphasized the need for increased awareness and action in addressing this issue. She pointed out that tropical diseases like leishmaniasis, malaria, and yellow fever might no longer remain confined to tropical regions due to the effects of global warming.
One potential solution highlighted by Petersen is the need for better screening of the nearly one million dogs entering the United States. Infected dogs arriving in the country can pass on leishmaniasis to local sand flies, which can then transmit the disease to humans. Raising awareness about using insecticides and repellents to protect against sand flies is also crucial. Moreover, thorough testing of dogs in their home countries before their entry into the United States is essential to prevent the spread of such diseases.
Petersen also noted that medicines and vaccines are available to combat this disease. In Europe and Brazil, dogs can receive vaccinations against leishmaniasis. Additionally, she cautioned about the possible spread of cutaneous leishmaniasis, emphasizing that those most susceptible to this disease are individuals who have visited areas where it is common.