What are the hosts of leishmaniasis?

Updated: Feb 18, 2020
  • Author: Craig G Stark, MD, FACP, FFTM, RCPS(Glasg), FISTM; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
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Common Old World hosts are domestic and feral dogs, rodents, foxes, jackals, wolves, raccoon-dogs, and hyraxes. Common New World hosts include sloths, anteaters, opossums, and rodents. The reservoir of infection for Indian kala-azar is humans, whereas it is rodents for African kala-azar, foxes in Brazil and Central Asia, and canines for the Mediterranean and Chinese kala-azar. Other mammalian reservoirs for the Leishmania parasite include equines and monkeys.

Uncommon modes of transmission include congenital transmission, contaminated needle sticks, blood transfusion, sexual intercourse, and, rarely, inoculation of cultures. Although, clear documentation of the potential of transfusion-associated leishmaniasis exists, there is less certainty of clear documentation of the actual occurrence of transfusion-related disease, because most cases in the literature occur in endemic areas of the world. [3, 4]

In India, visceral leishmaniasis caused by L donovani does not appear to have an animal reservoir and is thought to be transmitted via human-sandfly-human interaction.

Coinfection with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has also led to the spread of leishmaniasis, typically a rural disease, into urban areas. In patients infected with HIV, leishmaniasis accelerates the onset of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) by cumulative immunosuppression and by stimulating the replication of the virus. It may also change asymptomatic Leishmania infections into symptomatic infections. Sharing of needles by intravenous drug users can spread not only HIV but also leishmaniasis.

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