Leishmaniasis is an infection with microscopic single celled animals (flagellate protozoa of the genus Leishmania).
These parasites are spread by the saliva of bloodsucking sandflies. They can infect various animals with backbones (vertebrates) such as humans, rodents and dogs. These animals can in turn infect other sandflies when sucking their blood.
The infection can cause sores on the skin (cutaneous leishmaniasis) which can take months to heal and is a major health problem probably affecting over 300,000 people at any time. Another form (espundia) which occurs in the Americas, can affect the inside of the mouth and throat years after the initial skin lesion has healed. A third form (kalar-azar), affects internal organs, and is usually fatal if not treated.
Leishmaniasis caused 0.09% of all deaths worldwide in 2002, with an average of 8 deaths per million people.