Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by the Leishmania parasite that affects humans and a dog and that is transmitted by the bite of sand flies.
The disease occurs mostly in tropical and subtropical regions, but also reaches the Mediterranean countries.
In Portugal, although there may be cases of leishmaniasis throughout the country, there are some main focuses, as the region of the Alto-Douro, Lisbon and Algarve.
In humans, the leishmaniasis can occur in three forms: a cutaneous form, characterized by the presence of skin ulcers, which may or may not heal spontaneously; a mucocutaneous form, whose injuries are reminiscent of the leprosy and that can lead to the destruction of the mucous membranes of the mouth and nose; and a visceral form, which affects multiple organs such as the spleen and liver.
The last is the most severe and almost always fatal if left untreated. In Portugal, the most common are visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis, affecting mostly children up to 3 years.
In dog leishmaniasis, the most usual are cutaneous and visceral. Although not all infected dogs exhibit obvious clinical signs, they act as reservoirs of infection and can transmit the parasite through the vector to human and other mammals.