Leishmaniasis is a disease that is caused by the Leishmania parasite. This parasite is transmitted by the bite of a sand fly. Bites often go unnoticed, because the flies do not make any sound, are very small and the bites are not always painful.
Sand flies usually bite during the evening and night, but sometimes also during the day. The risk of being bitten is greater in rural areas than in cities.
Leishmaniasis can occur in several forms, each with its own set of symptoms:
- Cutaneous leishmaniasis results in wounds that do not heal properly or ulcers on the skin, several weeks to months after infection. These ulcers sometimes heal without treatment over the course of several months, but can leave scars.
- The muco-cutaneous form also affects the mucous membranes of the nose and mouth, sometimes a long time after the initial infection.
- The visceral form is the most dangerous. A fever and damage to certain organs such as the spleen, liver and bone marrow can occur months or even years after the infection. This form of the disease can be fatal without treatment.
Leishmaniasis occurs mainly in tropical regions, but also occurs in Southern Europe.