Title: Flesh-eating parasite spreading locally through sand flies in Southern US, study finds
A new study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has revealed that the flesh-eating parasite, Leishmania mexicana, is spreading locally in the southern regions of the United States through sand flies. The findings of the study have raised concerns about the long-term health implications and the potential spread of a deadlier variant of the parasite.
Leishmania mexicana is known to cause skin sores that can erupt weeks or even months after being bitten by an infected sand fly. Delays in the appearance of symptoms often result in misdiagnosis and delays in treatment. The damage caused by the parasite can last for years, leading to long-term scarring. The CDC’s review found that a significant number of leishmaniasis patients without any travel history were infected by Leishmania mexicana.
Drugs to treat the disease are available in hospitals, but the efficacy of these drugs remains uncertain. Patients who initially respond to treatment are still at risk of relapsing. Additionally, no vaccine is currently available for leishmaniasis, leaving people vulnerable to the flesh-eating parasite.
The study indicates that Leishmania mexicana has become endemic in Texas and several southern border states, according to Dr. Mary Kamb of the CDC. Controlling the sand flies that transmit the parasite has proven to be challenging due to their small size and ability to breed without standing water.
Leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania parasites, infects up to a million people worldwide each year, with Brazil reporting the highest number of cases in the Americas. Despite its potential for widespread harm, leishmaniasis is not a reportable disease in most states in the US, hindering the CDC’s ability to monitor and track its spread.
The discovery of Leishmania mexicana has raised concerns over the potential introduction and spread of a more severe variant called Leishmania infantum. Visceral leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania infantum, is a more severe form of the disease. Dogs are considered the primary reservoir of the parasite, and cases of leishmania infantum spreading into dogs who have not traveled abroad have already been reported. Dogs can directly transmit the parasite to humans through contact or bites.
To address the growing concern, scientists are currently developing a “risk assessment tool” to help veterinarians and public health officials manage infected dogs. Factors such as the origin of the dogs and the likelihood of local sand flies transmitting the parasite can guide decisions on whether to euthanize infected dogs.
The study’s findings highlight the urgent need to address the spreading of Leishmania mexicana and the potential threat of Leishmania infantum to public health in the southern United States. Efforts to control sand flies and develop effective treatments and vaccines must be prioritized to protect both humans and animals from this flesh-eating parasite.
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