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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 1999 Sep;61(3):380-5.

Widespread atypical cutaneous Leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania (L.) Chagasi in Nicaragua.

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Infectious Diseases Unit, Division of Public Health Biology and Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of California, Berkeley 94720-7360, USA.


Leishmania chagasi, the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis (VL) in the Americas, has recently been associated with atypical cutaneous leishmaniasis (ACL) in Central America; however, little comprehensive information about this disease is available. Clinical, epidemiologic, and parasitologic characteristics of 252 ACL cases and 44 VL cases in Nicaragua were analyzed. Visceral leishmaniasis is primarily associated with malnourished children less than five years of age, whereas ACL is found predominantly in children greater than five years of age and young adults. Genetically similar parasites are associated with both disease manifestations. The sand fly Lutzomyia evansi, in addition to Lu. longipalpis, may be involved in transmission of L. chagasi to humans. Our results indicate that ACL is more prevalent than previously thought, affecting up to 10% of a local population. The fact that the same parasite appears to cause both ACL and the potentially fatal visceral disease suggests that the host immune response is critical in determining the outcome of L. chagasi infection. The public health implications of the wide-spread presence of L. chagasi are discussed.

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