Cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is the skin form of the disease, endemic in many tropical and subtropical areas of the world, with an estimated 600.000 to 1.000.000 new cases emerging each year.
Many different species of Leishmania cause CL. In Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Europe this includes L. major, L. tropica, and L. aethiopica, In Central and South America the main species causing CL are L. braziliensis, L. panamensis, L. guyanensis and L. mexicana. The parasite infects the macrophages in the dermis, with variable clinical presentations and prognoses. Infection causes long-lasting ulcers, nodules or lesions that can heal spontaneously but slowly and typically leaving severe, disfiguring and stigmatising scars.
Being such an under-recognised medical condition, CL poses health challenges that necessitate fresh approaches for treatment and control. New, less costly and toxic or painful treatments that produce fewer, less debilitating side effects, accelerate healing and help to lower the overall social and economic impact of this Neglected Tropical Disease (NTD) are urgently needed.
Given the many different forms of the disease and its widespread impact, there is a clear need for a general patient-friendly treatment.
Although most primary skin lesions (cutaneous leishmaniasis; CL) can resolve without treatment, with the host developing a protective immune response, about 5% of cases can develop into more complex skin diseases. .The infection may spread over large areas of skin such as in diffuse cutaneous leishmaniasis or result in the development of mucosal lesions months or years after the primary lesion has resolved. This latter form referred to as mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (MCL) can have severe aesthetic consequences such as the progressive destruction of the soft palate. This form of leishmaniasis does not self-cure and is caused mainly by L. braziliensis in Latin America.