Autochthonous and imported tegumentary leishmaniasis in Catalonia (Spain): Aetiological evolution in the last four decades and usefulness of different typing approaches based on biochemical, molecular and proteomic markers

Transbound Emerg Dis. 2022 May;69(3):1404-1418. doi: 10.1111/tbed.14107. Epub 2021 May 5.


Leishmaniasis is a transmissible disease caused by Leishmania protozoa. Spain is endemic for both visceral and cutaneous leishmaniasis, the autochthonous aetiological agent being Leishmania infantum. Around the world, the L. donovani complex is associated with visceral symptoms, while any species of the Leishmania or Viannia subgenera affecting human can produce tegumentary forms. In a context of growing numbers of imported cases, associated with globalisation, the aim of this study was to analyse the aetiological evolution of human tegumentary leishmaniasis in a region of Spain (Catalonia). Fifty-six Leishmania strains, isolated from 1981 to 2018, were analysed using MLEE, gene sequencing (hsp70, rpoIILS, fh and ITS2) and MALDI-TOF. The utility of these different analytical methods was compared. The results showed an increase in leishmaniasis over the two last decades, particularly imported cases, which represented 39% of all cases studied. Leishmania infantum, L. major, L. tropica, L. braziliensis, L. guyanensis and L. panamensis were identified. The combination of molecular and enzymatic methods allowed the identification of 29 different strain types (A to AC). Strain diversity was higher in L. (Viannia), whilst the different L. major types were relatable with geo-temporal data. Among the autochthonous cases, type C prevailed throughout the studied period (39%). Minor types generally appeared within a short time interval. While all the techniques provided identical identification at the species complex level, MALDI-TOF and rpoIILS or fh sequencing would be the most suitable identification tools for clinical practice, and the tandem hsp70-ITS2 could substitute MLEE in the epidemiological field.

Keywords: Spain; aetiological evolution; characterisation methods; imported cases; tegumentary leishmaniasis.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Leishmania infantum* / genetics
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous* / diagnosis
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous* / epidemiology
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous* / veterinary
  • Proteomics
  • Spain / epidemiology

Associated data

  • GENBANK/MT497923
  • GENBANK/MT497978