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Global Health
August 16, 2016

Upsurge in Cases of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in Syria

JAMA. 2016;316(7):702. doi:10.1001/jama.2016.10498

The Syrian conflict has created conditions conducive to the outbreak of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Syria and surrounding areas in the Middle East and North Africa, according to an editorial authored by experts from the United Kingdom and United States who reviewed literature on the emergence of neglected tropical diseases such as CL in these conflict regions (Du R et al. PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2016;10[5]:e0004545).

Cutaneous lieshmaniasis is caused primarily by Leishmania major or Leishmania tropica, parasites that cause disfiguring skin lesions and that are transmitted by the bite of the sand fly. Cutaneous lieshmaniasis has been endemic in Syria but until recently was contained to the areas around Aleppo and Damascus. Since the onset of the Syrian Civil War 5 years ago, however, cases of CL in Syria have increased sharply. The report also points to a spike in CL cases in neighboring countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon, which have taken in millions of Syrian refugees. A similar situation is thought to be occurring in Eastern Libya and Yemen where political instability is also occurring. Numbers of CL cases are likely underestimated in all these regions because surveillance systems are weak or nonexistent.

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