Re-Emergence of Visceral and Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in the Greek Island of Crete

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Leishmaniases are vector-borne diseases transmitted by phlebotomine sand flies. Three species of Leishmania are found in the Mediterranean basin: Leishmania infantum, the most common species responsible for both visceral (VL) and cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL); Leishmania major, found in North Africa and Middle East causing CL; Leishmania tropica with a limited presence in Europe, causing CL. During the last 25 years, Crete has become an endemic zone for L. infantum with a high number of infected dogs and an increasing number of human cases every year; in the last 4 years, the incidence has reached an average of seven VL patients per year in a population of 600,000. At the same time, CL has re-emerged in Crete due to L. tropica, with an average of three CL cases per year in the last 4 years. Isolates were typed as L. infantum MON-1 and MON-98 and L. tropica MON-300, a zymodeme not reported before. Both VL and CL have spread to the whole of the island during the last 25 years, primarily in semi-urban and urban areas with altitudes of 0–50 m. The prevailing Phlebotomus species were Phlebotomus neglectus (proven vector of L. infantum) and Phlebotomus similis (suspected vector of L. tropica).

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