Outbreak of Cutaneous Leishmaniasis among military personnel in French Guiana, 2020: Clinical, phylogenetic, individual and environmental aspects

PLoS Negl Trop Dis. 2021 Nov 19;15(11):e0009938. doi: 10.1371/journal.pntd.0009938. eCollection 2021 Nov.


Background: Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (CL) is endemic in French Guiana but cases are usually sporadic. An outbreak signal was issued on May 15th 2020 with 15 suspected cases after a military training course in the rainforest. An outbreak investigation was carried out.

Methodology/principal findings: Thirty cases were confirmed. Leishmania guyanensis was the most frequent species (90%). The most frequent presentation was ulcerative (90%). Lesions on the face and hands were frequent (40% each). Eight cases (26%) presented a poor outcome after treatment with pentamidine and required a second line with amphotericin B. Three of them required further treatments with meglumine antimoniate or miltefosine. Two spots within the training area were deemed as likely sites of contamination, due to illegal logging. The isolated Leishmania strains did not form a separate cluster. Participation in Week 13 of year 2020 was associated with infection (OR = 4.59 [1.10-19.83]; p = 0.016) while undergoing only the "Fighting" exercise was protective (OR = 0.1 [0-0.74]; p = 0.021). There was no association between infection and other risk factors at the individual level. The attack rate of Regiment B (14/105 = 13.3%) was significantly higher (OR = 4.22 [1.84-9.53], p = 0.0001) compared to Regiment A (16/507 = 3.2%). The attack rate during this training course (30/858 = 3.5%) was significantly higher (OR 2.29 [1.28-4.13]; p = 0.002) than for other missions in French Guiana during the same period (22/1427 = 1.5%).

Conclusions: This outbreak could be explained by a combination of factors: climatic conditions around week 13, at-risk activities including night trainings, absence of impregnation, a lesser experience of rainforest duties in Regiment B and illegal logging attracting sandflies on military training grounds.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Antiprotozoal Agents / administration & dosage
  • Disease Outbreaks
  • Female
  • French Guiana / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Leishmania / drug effects
  • Leishmania / genetics
  • Leishmania / isolation & purification*
  • Leishmania / physiology
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / diagnosis
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / drug therapy
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / epidemiology*
  • Leishmaniasis, Cutaneous / parasitology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Military Personnel / statistics & numerical data*
  • Pentamidine / administration & dosage
  • Phylogeny*
  • Young Adult


  • Antiprotozoal Agents
  • Pentamidine

Grant support

The author(s) received no specific funding for this work.