Officials in Pakistan’s Mohmand Agency are reporting a surge in infections with the parasite, Leishmania (leishmaniasis), according to a Daily Times report. To date, some 732 leishmaniasis cases have been reported from all three tehsils of Mohmand Agency.

Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly/James Gathany
Phlebotomus papatasi sand fly/James Gathany

The most affected areas of tehsil Safi are Lakaro, Qandahari, Mamad Gat, Alingar, tehsil Prang Ghar and some areas of Haleemzai.

The Agency’s surgeon Dr Alamgir Khan said that a special emergency treatment campaign was conducted from April 14-16, 2018 to administer the first dose of treatment to the infected individuals which are mainly children.

The second campaign to administer second dosage has been launched in Ghalanai, BHU Lakaro, RHC Ekkaghund, BHU Nawai Kalli, BHU Qandhari and BHU Mamad Gat from April 22 and so far, a total of 687 patients have been registered and treated in the second phase.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease that is found in parts of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe. Leishmaniasis is caused by infection with Leishmania parasites, which are spread by the bite of infected sand flies. There are several different forms of leishmaniasis in people. The most common forms are cutaneous leishmaniasis, which causes skin sores, and visceral leishmaniasis, which affects several internal organs (usually spleen, liver, and bone marrow).

Leishmania major and L. tropica are found in Pakistan.

People with cutaneous leishmaniasis who develop clinical evidence of infection have one or more sores on their skin. The sores can change in size and appearance over time. The sores may start out as papules (bumps) or nodules (lumps) and may end up as ulcers (like a volcano, with a raised edge and central crater); skin ulcers may be covered by scab or crust. The sores usually are painless but can be painful.

There is not a vaccine available to prevent leishmaniasis. The best way is to avoid sandfly bites.

Founding Dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics and Molecular Virology & Microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine, Peter J. Hotez, M.D., Ph.D. joined me on the radio show to discuss Old World Cutaneous Leishmaniasis and Refugee Crises in the Middle East and North Africa