New strains of leishmaniasis found in United States

New Strains of Leishmaniasis Found in United States | Credits: Google
New Strains of Leishmaniasis Found in United States | Credits: Google

Washington DC, United States: New and locally acquired strain of cute leishmania has been identified in the United States, according to research. The research was presented in an annual session on Thursday. 

The result was concluded after surveying a sample size of 1,222 people. The sample explained that the disease was commonly found among people who have traveled internationally. According to the research, as many as 1,136 people travelled internationally and 86 were among the non-travellers.

The researchers have outlined that the United States is grappling with a new health threat, and this time, it’s coming from an unexpected source: sand flies. These tiny insects are now being linked to the spread of the Leishmania parasite, which can cause various diseases, including the troublesome skin sores known as cutaneous leishmaniasis. This health issue affects around a million people every year, with hotspots in regions like the Middle East, Central Asia, northern Asia, and Latin America.

Vector of cute leishmania | Credits: Google Images

But it doesn’t stop there. There’s an even more severe form of this disease called visceral leishmaniasis, which can directly impact critical organs like the spleen, liver, and bone marrow. In the U.S., the culprits transmitting this disease are sand flies, which have developed a taste for infected dogs.

Researchers have raised the alarm about the growing presence of this disease in the United States, and they presented their findings at a recent meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Chicago. They’re concerned that as our climate becomes more unpredictable and the planet gets warmer and wetter, it’s creating an ideal environment for these disease-carrying bugs to thrive.

In the words of Christine Petersen, one of the researchers, “We need to step up our game and remember that these tropical diseases might not stay confined to tropical areas anymore, all thanks to the effects of global warming.” And it’s not just leishmaniasis; other tropical diseases like malaria and yellow fever could also become more common.

One potential solution to this issue, as highlighted by Petersen, is the fact that a large number of dogs, nearly one million, enter the United States without proper screening for infectious diseases. This means that if an infected dog makes its way into the country, it can pass on leishmaniasis to local sandflies, which can, in turn, transmit the disease to humans.

Petersen first became aware of this problem back in 2018 when a rescue group was importing dogs from Turkey, where leishmaniasis is common. While the dogs were vaccinated against rabies and dewormed, there was no specific medication for leishmaniasis.

Skin infection caused because of cute leishmania | Credits: Google Images

To address this, Petersen stressed the importance of a comprehensive approach. Authorities should be vigilant in screening dogs when they arrive at ports, and there should be a strong effort to raise awareness about using insecticides and repellents to protect against sandflies. She also highlighted the need for thorough testing of dogs in their home countries before they are brought into the United States to prevent the spread of such diseases.

Petersen added that this parasite can even cross the placenta in pregnant women, emphasizing the critical need to understand what these dogs may have been exposed to.

Vaccination against the disease

She also took a moment to inform the public, mentioning in a statement that there are medicines and vaccines designed to combat this disease. It’s worth noting that dogs can receive vaccinations against this infection in Europe and Brazil.

Furthermore, she issued a word of caution about the possible spread of cutaneous leishmaniasis. She added that the people most susceptible to this disease are those who have visited areas where it’s common.

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