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Madrid will study the impact of leishmaniasis with analysis of the mosquito that causes it, hares and rabbits

The Madrid’s community will carry out a new study in the region to know the impact of leishmaniasis, a disease of animal origin that is transmitted to humans, after the outbreak that affected the southwest of the region in 2010, one of the largest recorded in Europe.

To do this, it will carry out analysis of the vectors – sandflies or sand mosquitoes – and the wild reservoirs – hares and rabbits. within the surveillance and control plan of this set of diseases.

It is a disease caused by a parasite of the genus ‘Leishmania’, which is transmitted by the bite of a mosquito infected by the parasite, the sandfly or sand fly. The period of activity of this insect includes the months of May to October.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that Every year there are 1.3 million new cases and between 20,000 and 30,000 deaths, despite the fact that only a small part of people infected by ‘Leishmania’ end up suffering from the disease.

The region experienced an outbreak of leishmaniasis in some municipalities in the southwest of the region and since the first cases occurred in 2010 There has been a significant increase in the number of cases in areas such as Fuenlabrada, LeganesHumanes of Madrid and Getafealthough currently cases are declining.



Resource image of two Great Dane breed dogs.

In Europe there has never been an outbreak with this high number of cases and since it is an urban outbreak of great complexity, due to the size of the affected area, which is heavily urbanized, with an approximate area of ​​about 125 square kilometers and a population of more than 500,000 inhabitants, in the urban belt of the municipality of Madrid.

According to the data provided by the Ministry of Health, since then and to date, nearly 800 human cases have been reported, of of which around 40% have been visceral cases, the most serious form and which can be fatal in 90% of cases if not treated in time.

So far this year, until week 17 (April 22 to 28), six cases of leishmaniasis have been recorded in the region, compared to the 24 recorded in the same period of the previous year, with a low incidence (an epidemic index of 0.25), according to the latest data from the weekly epidemiological report of the General Directorate of Public Health of the Community of Madrid.

Contract bidding

Specifically, the department headed by Fátima Matute has recently published the tender for a contract to take samples and carrying out the corresponding analytical tests both the vector (sandfly) and the wild reservoirs (hares and rabbits) that transmit leishmaniasis for the surveillance of this disease in the Community of Madrid.

Specifically, with this service, which is put out to tender with a base budget of 57,028.23 euros and a duration of seven months, this analysis contemplates “allow to know food preferences and the infection rate of the sandfly by ‘Leishmania infantum’, as well as the degree of parasitization by this trypanosomatid of hares and rabbits.”

The corresponding analysis reports will have to be ended December 10, 2024 and the possibility of two extensions of the contract is contemplated with a maximum term until that same date in 2026.

Although the best known reservoir is the dog, the existence of a wild cycle has been considered in which leporids (hares and rabbits), appear as the main reservoirsposing new challenges for management.

In this framework, the Community highlights the need to know the real rates of infection by the parasite in hares and rabbits in order to determine the risk of transmission of leishmaniasis to the population and to be able to design and carry out effective control of the disease.

To this end, this analysis will contemplate the use of techniques with great sensitivity and specificity, such as the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) in biological material for the detection of Leishmania infantum DNA and be able to determine the degree of parasitization of the wild leporids of our region.

For the sector sample, at least four representative areas of both the outbreak area and other areas of the Community of Madrid will be selected. The sampling period will be between the months of June to Octobertime of vector activity.

In the case of wild reservoirs, a minimum number of analyzes of 200 skin and spleen samples from rabbits and hares captured in the study areas will be carried out, which They will be representative areas of both the outbreak area and other areas of the Community of Madrid.

Knowing the degree of parasitization by ‘Leishmania infantum’ in wild reservoirs, as well as the infection rates and dietary preferences of the vector, helps to define and guide control actions for this disease. as indicated in the tender report. This aims to prevent the transmission of this important zoonosis, as well as achieve a reduction in its incidence in areas where its presence is confirmed.

Contagion and symptoms

Infection to people occurs through the bite of the sandfly mosquito that has been infected by previously biting an infected animal. It is not transmitted by direct contact from person to person or from animal to person.

The vector involved in transmission is the sandfly, a small mosquito (2 to 3 mm in length), straw-yellow color and whose body, including wings and limbs, It is covered with abundant hairs.

Its period of activity includes the months from May to October – in winter sandfly mosquitoes remain in the larval state and cannot transmit the disease – although it can vary depending on climatic conditions. They are characterized by their activity at dusk, whenever temperatures exceed 16-18ºC and rain and wind are not present. They have a notable attraction to light.

Its silent flight is typical, unlike other mosquitoes, and relatively limited in its range (less than 2 kilometers). Only females feed on blood, and therefore They are the only transmitters of the disease.

Leishmaniasis mainly has two clinical presentations, the visceral one (also called kala-azar) with the most serious presentations and that affects several internal organs; and cutaneous, the most common but mildest form.

Regarding symptoms, cutaneous leishmaniasis is characterized by the presence of one or more ulcerated lesions on the skin that develop weeks or months after the bite. They are generally painless, but They can be painful when infected. They usually heal, even without treatment, although they can last months or years and leave scars.

In the case of the visceral form, it is the most serious and affects several internal organs, usually the spleen, liver and bone marrow. Symptoms generally include fever and weight loss., accompanied by an increase in the size of the liver and spleen. Blood tests may also be altered (anemia, among others).

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