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Parassitologia. 2004 Jun;46(1-2):221-3.

[Infantile visceral leishmaniasis in the Campania region, Italy: experience from a Paediatric Referral Centre].

[Article in Italian]

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  • 1Centro Regionale di Riferimento per la Leishmaniosi Viscerale Pediatrica, Dipartimento di Pediatria, Ospedale Santobono, Napoli, Italy.


In the first half of the 20th century, visceral leishmaniasis (VL) was a common infantile syndrome in coastal territories of the Campania region of Italy. After World War II, the incidence dropped to a few cases/year for three decades; in late 1980s the disease reemerged among both children and adults. To face the VL recrudescence, a Paediatric Reference Centre was established at the Santobono-Pausilipon hospital in Naples, for the clinical diagnosis, care and drug treatment of all infantile VL cases occurred in the Campania region. Rapid laboratory diagnosis was secured by a Diagnostic Reference Centre established at the Istituto Superiore di Sanità. Here, we report on the epidemiological and parasitological features of all cases referred to the Centre in the past 15 years. From 1990 to March 2004, a total of 255 cases were diagnosed and treated at the Centre. The Figure shows the yearly trend of patients (min. 3 cases in 1990 and 1991, max. 30 cases in 2000). There were 135 males (52.9%); the age ranged 4 months-14 years, but 189 patients (74.1%) were < or = 3 years old. The majority of the patients (189, 74.1%) were from the Naples province, with a cluster of 102 cases (40% of total patients) from the towns and districts surrounding Vesuvius. Twenty-seven cases (10.6%) were from the town of Maddaloni, Caserta province, whereas 15 cases (5.9%) were from coastal villages of the Salerno province. Only 1 and 2 cases were from Benevento and Avellino provinces, respectively. All patients but seven, who have been treated with antimonial drugs in the 1990-1993 period, were successfully treated with a liposomal amphotericin B regimen. From bone-marrow aspirate samples, 138 Leishmania cultures were obtained in EMTM and Sloppy Evans' media, of which 134 have been typed by the electrophoretic analysis of 13 isoenzymes. Two zymodemes (Z) of L. infantum were routinely identified over the study period, ZMON-1 (the commonest zymodeme in the Mediterranean area) and ZMON-72, variant from MON-1 in PGM mobility and detected only in our region. The latter, identified in 61 patients (45.5%), was found exclusively distributed in towns of the Vesuvius area and in Maddaloni until 1996, but in recent years it appears to have spread to other areas of the Naples (including the island of Ischia) and Caserta provinces, but not to Salerno province. In conclusion, the VL macrofocus of the Naples-Caserta area is probably responsible for the highest number of infantile cases among any VL macrofoci described in southern Europe. Considering the limited efforts paid to control the canine reservoir, rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment of patients still remain the first-line control measures aimed at reducing the health impact of the disease.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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