Skip to Main Content




Encompassing a complex group of disorders, leishmaniasis is caused by unicellular eukaryotic obligatory intracellular protozoa of the genus Leishmania and primarily affects the host's reticuloendothelial system. Leishmania species produce widely varying clinical syndromes ranging from self-healing cutaneous ulcers to fatal visceral disease. These syndromes fall into three broad categories: visceral leishmaniasis (VL), cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), and mucosal leishmaniasis (ML).


Etiology and Life Cycle


Leishmaniasis is caused by ∼20 species of the genus Leishmania in the order Kinetoplastida and the family Trypanosomatidae (Table 212-1). Several clinically important species are of the subspecies Viannia. The organisms are transmitted by phlebotomine sandflies of the genus Phlebotomus in the “Old World” (Asia, Africa, and Europe) and the genus Lutzomyia in the “New World” (the Americas). Transmission may be anthroponotic (i.e., the vector transmits the infection from infected humans to healthy humans) or zoonotic (i.e., the vector transmits the infection from an animal reservoir to humans). Human-to-human transmission via shared infected needles has been documented in IV drug users in the Mediterranean region. In utero transmission to the fetus occurs rarely.

Table Graphic Jump Location
Table 212-1 Geographic Distribution and Characteristic Epidemiology of Leishmaniases

Want remote access to your institution's subscription?

Sign in to your MyAccess profile while you are actively authenticated on this site via your institution (you will be able to verify this by looking at the top right corner of the screen - if you see your institution's name, you are authenticated). Once logged in to your MyAccess profile, you will be able to access your institution's subscription for 90 days from any location. You must be logged in while authenticated at least once every 90 days to maintain this remote access.


About MyAccess

If your institution subscribes to this resource, and you don't have a MyAccess profile, please contact your library's reference desk for information on how to gain access to this resource from off-campus.

Subscription Options

AccessMedicine Full Site: One-Year Subscription

Connect to the full suite of AccessMedicine content and resources including more than 250 examination and procedural videos, patient safety modules, an extensive drug database, Q&A, Case Files, and more.

$995 USD
Buy Now

Pay Per View: Timed Access to all of AccessMedicine

24 Hour Subscription $34.95

Buy Now

48 Hour Subscription $54.95

Buy Now

Pop-up div Successfully Displayed

This div only appears when the trigger link is hovered over. Otherwise it is hidden from view.