An overview of paediatric leishmaniasis

J Postgrad Med. Jan-Mar 2003;49(1):31-8. doi: 10.4103/0022-3859.930.


Leishmaniasis, a parasitic disease transmitted by the bite of some species of sandflies affects various age groups depending on the infecting Leishmania species, geographic location, disease reservoir, and host immunocompetence. Visceral leishmaniasis is the most severe form of the disease affecting children. The extent and presentation of the disease depend on several factors, including the humoral and cell-mediated immune response of the host, the virulence of the infecting species, and the parasite burden. Children are at greater risk than adults in endemic areas. Malnutrition contributes to the development of disease, and incomplete therapy of initial disease is a risk factor for recurrence of leishmaniasis. Children usually present with intermittent fever, paleness, refusal to feed or anorexia, weight loss, and abdominal distension. Splenomegaly, hepatomegaly, lymph node enlargement, thrombocytopaenia, anaemia, leukopaenia and hypergammaglobulinemia are the most common findings in Paediatric leishmaniasis. Molecular methods appear to offer the promise of accurate non-invasive tools for the diagnosis of Leishmaniasis. Till these methods are evaluated, definite diagnosis will rely on the demonstration of the infecting parasite in various tissues. World-wide, with the notable exception of India, pentavalent antimonial compounds remain the most effective and the most affordable therapy for this disease. Lipid formulations of amphotericin B were assessed as short duration treatment and were proved to be effective. However, their cost precludes their wide use in developing countries. Miltefosine, a new oral agent, might prove effective, safe, and affordable. Strategies aimed at control of the micro-population of sandflies, eradication of canine leishmaniasis, and offering personal protection against sandfly bites, together with health education programs in developing countries, can help control the disease. Development of an effective vaccine remains a priority.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / therapeutic use
  • Child
  • Developing Countries
  • Humans
  • Leishmania donovani / pathogenicity
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / diagnosis*
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / epidemiology
  • Leishmaniasis, Visceral / therapy*
  • Protozoan Vaccines / therapeutic use
  • Risk Factors


  • Antiprotozoal Agents
  • Protozoan Vaccines