Evaluation and Control of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis in KSA

Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL) is exclusively transmitted by the bite of a female sand fly. In collaboration with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health, we have developed a programme aiming to prevent and control CL in this country. The programme focuses, among other aspects, in developing a rapid diagnostic test based on the patient’s anti-alpha-Gal response, and in identifying markers for disease exposure. We recently found evidence that treatment efficacy against Old World CL varies with parasite species, geographical locations and the development of secondary infections. This has implications on the treatment of this debilitating disease. The severity of a leishmaniasis ulcer partly depends on the patient’s previous exposure to sand fly bites. This explains the increased protection against CL in individuals living in CL-endemic areas and supports development of potential vaccine models based on sand fly salivary proteins. Furthermore, Old World CL patients produce high levels of anti-Gal antibodies (i.e. recognise terminal alpha-galactosyl epitopes). This discovery is currently being exploited for the making of rapid diagnostic tools and a potential protective glycovaccine model against CL. We hope that these tools can soon be applied in other CL-endemic countries, including refugee settings.


WHO Region: EMRO


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