Leishmaniasis is a disease caused by protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania. Clinical manifestations of leishmaniasis include cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) and visceral leishmaniasis (VL). About 90% of cases occur in the tropics or subtropics but the disease is also endemic in the Mediterranean area. No systematic analysis on leishmaniasis in travellers visiting endemic areas in Europe is available.
Within the European travel medicine network EuroTravNet, we performed a retrospective analysis in travellers who acquired leishmaniasis within Europe diagnosed between 2000 and 2012.
Forty cases of leishmaniasis (30 CL and 10 VL) were identified; the majority were acquired in Spain (n = 20, 50%), Malta and Italy (each n = 7, 18%). Median age was 48 years (range 1-79). Three of eight (37.5%) of the VL patients were on immunosuppressive therapy. The most frequent reason for travel was tourism (83%). Median duration of travel for patients with CL and VL was 2 weeks with ranges of 1-21 weeks in CL and 1-67 weeks in VL, respectively (P = 0.03).
Health professionals should include leishmaniasis in the differential diagnosis in patients returning from southern Europe - including short-term travellers - with typical skin lesions or systemic alterations like fever, hepatosplenomegaly and pancytopenia.