Leishmaniasis in U.S. Military Personnel

Americans returning from Iraq have been told not to give blood for a year to prevent the possible spread of a parasite into the US blood supply.

The parasite is called Leishmania and causes a disease called leishmaniasis. The parasite is transmitted to people by sand flies. Persons who travel to areas of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe are at risk for developing the disease. For an update on the numbers of military personnel deployed to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait, please read the article below.

For more in-depth information on the parasite, please read Leishmania infection, and for information about traveling and your health risk, visit the Travel Medicine Center.

Frederick Hecht, M.D. and Barbara K. Hecht, Ph.D.
Medical Authors and Editors

Update: Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in U.S. Military Personnel --- Southwest/Central Asia, 2002--2004

Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a sand fly--borne parasitic infection. Preliminary data about cases of CL in military personnel deployed to three countries (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Kuwait) in Southwest/Central Asia have been published previously (1). During August 2002--February 2004, Department of Defense (DoD) staff identified 522 parasitologically confirmed cases of CL in military personnel. Leishmania major was the etiologic agent for all 176 cases for which species data, obtained by isoenzyme electrophoresis of cultured parasites, are available. This update focuses on the 361 cases (69% of 522) in patients whose demographic data were collected systematically under treatment protocols for therapy with the pentavalent antimonial compound sodium stibogluconate (Pentostam®; GlaxoSmithKline, United Kingdom) at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, District of Columbia (1). U.S. health-care providers should consider CL in persons with persistent skin lesions who were deployed to Southwest/Central Asia or who were in other areas where leishmaniasis is endemic.

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