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Situational Analysis of Leishmaniases Research in Kenya

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Abstract:

Leishmaniases spp are protozoan parasites of the Trypanosomatidae family that cause disease in humans and animals. In general, infections with these parasites can be divided into three main forms namely, cutaneous, mucocutaneous, and visceral leishmaniases. The disease is prevalent in many tropical and subtropical regions of the world, where it is transmitted via the bite of an infected sand fly. Leishmaniasis has been known to be endemic in parts of Kenya from as far back as early in the 20th century. These endemic areas include Turkana, Baringo, Kitui, Machakos, Meru, West Pokot and Elgeyo Marakwet districts which have been reported to be endemic for kala-azar. Recent outbreaks of VL have been reported in the previously non-endemic districts of Wajir and Mandera in North Eastern Kenya between May 2000 and August 2001. The vector for VL in Kenya is Phlebotomus martini though other vectors including P. orientalis have been reported. Baringo district is the only foci reported where both VL and CL are known to occur in Kenya. The aetiological agents for CL which include L. major which has been reported in Baringo; L. tropica in Laikipia, Samburu, Isiolo, Nakuru and Nyandarua districts while L. aethiopica has been reported in the Mt Elgon area. In Kenya, P. duboscqi, P. guggisbergi have been shown to be the vectors of L. major and L. tropica, respectively, while P. pediffer, P. longipes and P. elgonensis have been implicated as vectors of L. aethiopica. Since 1980, the Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI) has spearheaded research on leishmaniases research in Kenya focusing on various aspects including characterization of Leishmania species, biology, and ecology of sand fly vectors, development of biological strategiesF for sand fly control, identification of animal reservoirs, diagnosis, new treatment strategies, new chemotherapeutic agents, and vaccine-related studies. KEMRI, a founding partner of the Drugs for Neglected Disease Initiative (DNDi), whose overall aim is to address lack of new or improved drugs for neglected diseases (which include leishmaniases, malaria, trypanosomiasis and chagas disease) has made major contributions in leishmaniases research and control in Kenya and the eastern Africa region. African Journal of Health Sciences Vol. 13 (1-2) 2008: pp. 7-21

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