A neglected disease of humans: a new focus of visceral leishmaniasis in Bakool, Somalia.
AffiliationMédecins sans Frontières, Dupréstraat 94, B-1090 Brussels, Belgium.
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AbstractVisceral leishmaniasis (VL) was observed in children in Bakool region, Somalia, an area where VL has not been reported before. We describe the extent of the problem in this war- and famine-stricken area. A retrospective analysis was done of all cases admitted to a VL treatment centre between July 2000 and August 2001. Patients with longstanding fever, splenomegaly and a positive direct agglutination test (DAT; titre > 1:3200) were treated as suspected VL cases. A rapid epidemiological and entomological assessment was performed in the area. Species identification was attempted from blood samples by polymerase chain reaction-restriction fragment length polymorphism analysis of cysteine proteinase B genes. In 1 year, 230 serologically-positive cases were diagnosed as VL, and response to therapy was good in 91.6% of the 225 treated with sodium stibogluconate. Parasitological confirmation was attempted and obtained in 2 cases. Parasites were found to be most similar to Sudanese and Ethiopian reference strains of the Leishmania donovani complex. In a serological survey of 161 healthy displaced persons, 15% were positive by the leishmanin skin test and 3 (2%) were positive by the DAT. The sandfly captures showed Phlebotomus martini and P. vansomerenae. VL seems to be a longstanding and serious health problem in Bakool region. Food insecurity might have contributed to the emergence and detection of VL in this area.
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