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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1982;76(6):741-6.

Prevalence and disease spectrum in a new focus of visceral leishmaniasis in Kenya.


A cross-sectional community study was conducted in the village of Kivaa in Machakos District, Kenya, to determine the prevalence and disease spectrum of visceral leishmaniasis. The disease was first diagnosed in 1978. Demographic data was collected from 50 households comprising 374 individuals. Clinical examination, laboratory investigations and leishmanin skin tests were performed. The results showed that in spite of the presence of a susceptible population, visceral leishmaniasis occurred with a low prevalence in Kivaa as evidenced by the small number of individuals with active disease (0.30%), a low leishmanin positivity rate (7.2%) and the presence of leishmanial antibodies in only 3.7% of the population. The infection affected individuals in homesteads with or without nearby termite hills. Leishmanial antibodies and leishmanin positivity were found among asymptomatic household contacts of patients as well as in isolated individuals in non-infected homesteads. These findings suggest the existence of a spectrum of disease ranging from asymptomatic to self-healing to severe clinical illness. Furthermore, there was significant clustering of leishmanin reactors in the households of patients. The aetiology of this striking focality of visceral leishmaniasis remains obscure. Possible explanations are discussed.

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