from Iraq and Afghanistan
Animal Park host Ben Fogle seriously ill
after contracting flesh-eating bug in

TV presenter Ben Fogle is seriously ill after contracting
a flesh-eating disease in the Peruvian jungle.
Doctors believe the Animal Park host, 34, has caught
Leishmaniasis - caused by protozoan parasites
transmitted by the bite of a species of sand fly.
Fogle's illness could jeopardise his fitness levels
ahead of his South Pole expedition in December.
The former Castaway star spent eight weeks filming in
South America over the summer for his BBC2 show
Extreme Dreams.
Following his return to England, Fogle was soon struck
down with a mystery virus and left bed-ridden for three
Sandfly: A sandfly similar to this one is thought to have
transmitted protozoan parasites to Fogle, causing
After undergoing a series of tests at the Hospital for
Tropical Diseases in London, doctors believe he has
the flesh-eating bug.
Fogle currently has a painful, inch-wide hole in his
forearm and is planning to undergo a month of
treatment to rid himself of the disease.
He will have to visit the London hospital where he will
have a metal compound put into his blood stream
through an intravenous drip each day.

The poisonous compound should kill off the parasite
but it could also leave Ben feeling unwell.
Fogle is scheduled to join former Olympic rower James
Cracknell to represent Great Britain in the race to the
South Pole in December.
He has already missed some of the vital training
sessions for the expedition, which is scheduled to start
on December 14th.

A spokesperson for Ben has confirmed he had the
They said: 'Ben is being treated for this condition but he
is very fit and he has great confidence in the specialists
who are treating him.'

The persistence, dissemination, and
visceralization tendency of Leishmania

Persistence of the L. major amastigotes in the tissues
differed from those of other species causing visceral
diseases. These findings demonstrate a possible
visceralization tendency for L. major previously recorded
for L. tropica and L. mexicana.

Viscerotropic leishmaniasis from Gulf War 1

Imported Visceral Leishmaniasis:  
Diagnostic Dilemmas
Leishmania major and L. tropica generally cause
cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL). Exceptional cases have
been described, such as visceral outcomes in
individuals infected with L. tropica (13). These cases
are referred to as viscerotropic leishmaniasis and differ
from classical VL in the variable pathologies observed,
with several patients not having the typical presentation
of VL and low antileishmania antibody titers.
UBC researcher finds new way to treat
devastating fungal infections
Pharmaceutical Sciences Prof. Kishor M. Wasan has
created a liquid preparation that incorporates drug
molecules in fat (lipid-based formulation) so that
Amphotericin B, a potent anti-fungal agent, can be taken
by mouth with minimal side effects. The agent, used for
about 50 years, is currently administered intravenously
and has significant toxic side effects, notably severe
kidney toxicity as well as serious tissue damage at the
intravenous injection site
Arvid and Janyce Brown Case
The U.S. Army activated Arvid for service in the Persian Gulf in
January of 1991. Arvid arrived in Saudi Arabia a few weeks later near
the end of January. While stationed in Saudi Arabia, he was exposed
to Leishmaniasis. Leishmaniasis is borne by sand flies. Arvid received
military provided medical care for the bites of sand flies while in Saudi
Arabia. The Army released Arvid from active military service on June
4, 1991, a little less than six months after he arrived in Saudi Arabia.
At the time he left active service, Arvid had not been diagnosed with
Leishmaniasis. On September 3, 1994, more than three years after
his release from active service, Arvid married Janyce Elaine Surface,
who has since passed away. Ten days after the wedding, on
September 13, 1994, Arvid received a medical examination from the U.
S. Department of Veterans Affairs at the Veterans Affairs Medical
Center in Michigan. This medical examination was part of the “Persian
Gulf War Registry” project. According to the plaintiffs, this
examination did not detect Arvid’s Leishmaniasis. Janyce bore Arvid
two children: Asa, born August 30, 1995, and Helen, born June 18,
1997. Arvid unknowingly transmitted his Leishmaniasis to Janyce
through personal and sexual contact, and Janyce, in turn, transmitted
it to their children in utero. Arvid was diagnosed with the disease by a
civilian doctor on October 1, 1998. His wife and children were
diagnosed with the disease about two years later on October 4, 2000.
Disfiguring Skin Disease Plaques
Kabul, battered and neglected for years, has
the world's worst outbreak of leishmaniasis,
health experts say.
"It's out of control, absolutely out of control,"
said Reto Steiner, a medic with the German
Medical Service which helps run the Kabul
Military Ban on
Blood Donations
People who actually get the
disease are permanently
deferred," she explained.
"The issue with those who
are exposed is that there is
an incubation period before
any symptoms appear the
deferral will prevent them
from unknowingly donating

According to the Armed
Services Blood Program
office, the parasite that
causes the disease has
been proven to survive in
blood products stored under
standard conditions for up to
25 days, and at least six
cases of transfusion-
transmitted cases of the
disease have been reported.
AABB Ban on Blood
DonationsDue to the risk
of transfusion-transmitted
leishmania blood collection
facilities should begin
deferring prospective donors
who have been to Iraq as
soon as possible but no later
than Oct 30, 2003.    Armed
services personnel often give
blood at civilian facilities.....
Visceral Infection
Caused by Leishmania
tropica in Veterans of
Operation Desert  
L. tropica can produce
visceral infection that
can cause unexplained
systemic illness in
persons returning from
areas where this
organism is endemic
Some (some 80%)in
296th hit by 'Baghdad

Approximately 80 percent of
the soldiers with the Army
Reserve's 296th
Transportation Company in
Brookhaven are infected with
a parasitic disease
contracted while serving in
Iraq, according to the
company commander.
Kabul: A City in Intensive Care
Al Jazeera
by David Foster

We are at a clinic on the outskirts of Kabul where Afghan
men, women and children are queuing-up outside in the
blazing sun to be treated for Leishmaniasis.

It was upsetting to watch - it must have been terrifying for
the children being treated.

The syringe was inserted four times. In the case of two
babies, so close to their eyes that one slip would have
been disastrous.

The screaming didn't stop.
Illness in a
Redeployed Soldier
Although malaria and
leishmaniasis continue to
be the most common
illnesses, brucellosis
must also be considered
in the differential of any
redeployed soldier with
headache, fever, and
body aches. Public
health as well as
command elements must
reinforce their role in
preventing exposure to
this pathogen
Dual Effort Helps Keep Mosquitoes and
Flies Down
By Spec. Charles Bateman, 61st Medical Detachment
May 28, 2007 - 1:19:57 PM

Spec. Charles Bateman sorts the catch from the night
prior. (Photo by 61st Medical Detachment public affairs)
Blackanthem Military News, BAGHDAD, Iraq – Rising
temperatures on Victory Base Camp are annoying, but it
becomes more annoying when insect populations rise.  
The 61st Medical Detachment (PM) handles preventive
medicine issues in Iraq.  One preventive medicine task
is to monitor the vector populations and initiate control

The Anopheles mosquito, which can transmit malaria,
concerns the 61st PM.  “Another is sand flies, which can
transmit leishmaniasis,” said Spec. Tamaryn
Swickheimer, 61st PM.  The 61st accomplishes this
mission by setting out forty mosquito light traps at
different sites throughout Victory Base Camp twice a
Think YOU have a bug problem?

"There were some places that soldiers and other
Vector Control workers absolutely wouldn't go because
of leishmaniasis," says Manon. "It's almost like getting
leprosy. It's bad news."

Will Climate Change bring more disease?

Until recently, diseases such as malaria,
leishmaniasis and Lyme disease were considered
exotic ailments but with predicted changes in climate
and the right environmental conditions, these
diseases have the potential to spread throughout
Effect of topical honey application along
with intralesional injection of glucantime in
the treatment of cutaneous leishmaniasis

Topical application of honey has been shown to be
effective in treatment of the post-operative wound
infections, reducing the need for antibiotics and finally
reducing remaining scar
Daschle Letter To
December 10, 2003
"For example, funding for
research into prevention,
diagnoses, and treatment of
leishmaniasis was halted in  
With research stalled,
physicians are forced to treat
our soldiers with Pentosam,
a toxic drug with serious side
effects, even though
promising alternatives are
ready to be tested.
A Deadly Danger To Every Troop Serving In Or Near Iraq;
It Can Kill You, It Can Kill Your Wife, It Can Kill Your Kids:
And The V.A. Tries To Cover It Up

August 07, 2006 Paul Egan, The Detroit News [Excerpts]


Nobody can say U.S. Army veteran Arvid Brown’s Gulf War illness is all in his

Brown’s late wife, Janyce, caught leishmaniasis — a sometimes deadly parasitic
disease borne by sand flies that can attack the body’s cells and internal organs
— a malady he brought home from Operation Desert Storm. So did the Swartz
Creek couple’s two young children.

Now, the U.S. Court of Appeals has ruled the federal government and the
Department of Veterans Affairs can be sued for alleged failure to diagnose Brown’
s illness and for any injuries he and his family suffered.

Veterans’ groups are hailing the decision as a victory for families of tens of
thousands of veterans of not only the first Gulf War, in which Brown served, but
subsequent Mideast conflicts.

“This is a huge case,” said Joyce Riley, spokeswoman for the American Gulf War
Veterans Association in Versailles, Mo. “This gives a lot of veterans a lot of hope.”

When Brown, now 48, returned from the Gulf War in 1991, he couldn’t understand
why his once-vigorous health was deteriorating. His head, muscles and bones
ached, his strength was sapped; he was constantly exhausted but could not

Doctors with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs could not pinpoint an

They denied him disability benefits in 1995, and Brown said they prescribed
painkillers and mood-altering drugs that made things worse. [This is so typical.
The assholes do that for everything: hey, it’s OK, go ahead, be a drug addict. One
more expressions of thanks from an ungrateful government.]

It was Brown’s wife, Janyce, who had the research skills and persistence
eventually to find a doctor who in 1998 diagnosed Brown with leishmaniasis.

By then, Janyce, too, had contracted the disease and both the couple’s children
had been born with it and other ailments, according to medical reports filed in the
case from Dr. Gregory Forstall, then-director of infectious diseases at McLaren
Regional Medical Center in Flint, now in private practice.

The government has not disputed the medical reports.

Janyce Brown developed a series of ailments and last year died at age 43 of a
rare and inoperable form of liver cancer. Though no definite link was established
between her leishmaniasis and other diseases, Arvid Brown said his wife was
healthy before they met.

Janyce Brown in 2004 brought a $125 million lawsuit against the government, but
a federal judge in Detroit ruled the family couldn’t sue for injuries a soldier
suffered while on active duty.

Late last month, the U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati partially
overturned O’Meara’s decision, saying the government is not liable for injuries
suffered while Brown was on active duty but it can be sued for what happened
once he returned to Michigan. The government may appeal, officials said.

“They should not be allowed to just use us up and throw us away,” said Brown,
now alone and raising two disabled children, ages 9 and 10, on his disability
income. “Somebody has got to be accountable.”

Mark Zeller, 42, a Gulf War veteran in Dahlonega, Ga., said he is about to bring a
lawsuit against the government and believes the decision in Brown’s case will
strengthen his legal position.

“I can’t do anything and I have to sleep all the time,” said Zeller, who has been
diagnosed by Veterans Affairs doctors with chronic fatigue syndrome but says his
wife and five children also constantly suffer from flulike symptoms.

Leishmaniasis is little-known in North America but common in southwest Asia
and many other parts of the world. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention, about 12 million people in the tropics and subtropics
have the disease. One form produces skin lesions.

The more severe and deadly form, which Brown has, attacks blood cells and the
body’s internal organs. Like malaria, it is a chronic disease that can be controlled
but not cured.

[And guess what. Lots of troops in Iraq get the skin lesions. And the military
doctors give them a little cream to make it go away. And they do NOT tell the
troops that the parasite the causes the skin lesions can still be alive and well
insider your body, hibernating, and then breaking loose to infect and destroy your
internal organs. And kill you. And kill anybody who gets it from you. These rats are
the enemy, not the Iraqis.]

Dr. Katherine Murray Leisure is a former Department of Veterans Affairs doctor
now in private practice in Lebanon, Pa., specializing in infectious diseases. She
said leishmaniasis if often difficult to diagnose and could be an underlying factor
in half or more of the thousands of cases of veterans commonly referred to as
suffering from “Gulf War syndrome.”

Bedouins and others who live in the desert clothe their entire bodies for good
reasons, Murray Leisure said. But, when U.S. forces go to the desert to fight, “we
try to pretend we’re at the Jersey shore.”

No reliable numbers are available on how many family members believe they
have been infected.

But Riley, a registered nurse and former U.S. Air Force captain, said she believes
tens of thousands of veterans’ relatives have suffered.

“I think this is the Titanic,” said Robert P. Walsh, Brown’s Battle Creek attorney.
“All these guys saw was the tip of the iceberg.”

Arvid Brown, who grew up in southwest Detroit, spent about six months overseas
during Desert Storm, helping to build, maintain and operate a prisoner of war
camp near Hafr Al-Batin in northeastern Saudi Arabia, about 25 miles from the
Iraqi border.

Brown remembers the sand flies, the camel spiders and the bug repellent. He
remembers meeting soldiers in the desert who wore dogs’ flea collars around
their necks, wrists and ankles and thinking how unhealthy that seemed.

The muscle aches, bone pains, headaches and rashes began while he was in
Saudi Arabia, but “it was easy to attribute it to heat and everything I was doing,”
Brown recalled.

Solving the mystery would take seven years as Brown’s condition worsened
through periods of disorientation, blackouts, extreme light sensitivity and almost
unbearable pain. By 1998, when he was finally diagnosed, Brown had lost his
job, been forced to give up driving and said he awoke early most mornings from a
fitful sleep, vomiting blood.

Veterans Affairs doctors, who according to court records examined Brown on
Sept. 13, 1994, but did not detect the disease, said he was suffering anxiety
attacks and prescribed pills, Brown said. The department did not grant him
benefits until 1998 and only this year recognized his diagnosis of leishmaniasis.

Brown wed Janyce Surface in September 1994 as his health continued to spiral
downward. He lost his job and they struggled to pay bills.

Children arrived: Asa, now 10, in 1995, and his sister, Helen, now 9, in 1997. Both
were born with severe handicaps and later tested positive for leishmaniasis.
Helen is still unable to speak.

It was Janyce Brown who got her husband an appointment with Forstall, who
diagnosed Arvid Brown with leishmaniasis in October 1998. Chemotherapy put
the disease into remission, though Brown continues to struggle with his health

By 2000, Janyce Brown and both children had also tested positive for
leishmaniasis. As Janyce struggled to care for her husband and look after two
young children with cerebral palsy, her own health rapidly deteriorated. She died
at home of cancer.

“She was an extremely intelligent individual, someone with the will and the nerves
of steel and the tenaciousness of the meanest bulldog you had ever come
across,” Brown said.

“She was fighting for her husband, the man she loved … and her children … She
will always be my biggest hero.”
When they tell you leishmaniasis is nothing to worry about and
will heal itself in a few months remember what happened to
this family.

Update Arvid and Janyce Brown case
VA Owes A Duty to Veteran and his family Veterans Today

This is a rather tragic case of a Gulf War veteran who contracted an
infectious disease while deployed and later transmitted the disease to
his wife who in turn transmitted it to their child in utero.  The wife has
since died.  VA initially sought governmental immunity under the Feres
Doctrine but, in an appeal by attorney Robert Walsh to the 6th Circuit,
this was found to not be applicable in a claim against VA.  Now a
federal judge has denied the government's efforts to have the lawsuit
terminated as a matter of law ruling that our case can proceed on the
theory that VA doctors owe family members a duty to warn them of
potential risks when the veteran has symptoms of an infectious

Spread of disease tied
to US
Combat Deployments
When Army Colonel Peter J.
Weina , director of the
leishmania diagnostics
laboratory at the Walter Reed
Army Institute of Research in
Silver Spring, Md., spent
months traveling around Iraq
in 2003, he found that some
commanders had taken
precautions to
guard against
Global warming 'spawns
flesh-eating virus' in the UK
Publisher:  Pam Caulfield
Published: 06/08/2007
Global warming in the UK is spawning a fatal
flesh-eating disease, scientists have warned.

At current rates, the numbers of people
suffering Leishmaniasis will increase
dramatically, according to a study at the
University of Hull.

The disease is caused by a parasite from
sand fly bites usually found only in tropical
Epidemic  MIddle East   Iraq

Details here

Over 180 children have been affected with Baghdad
boil disease, or leishmaniasis, in Iraq's southern
province of Qadissiyah, about 130km south of
Baghdad, local officials said. Leishmaniasis is known
by different local names, including oriental sore,
Aleppo button, Jericho boil and Delhi boil. In its most
unpleasant form - visceral leishmaniasis - organ
failure and death can result. The disease's incubation
period is up to six months, so thousands could have
the disease without knowing it. "It is a dangerous
disease which hits mostly children and could lead to
death or leave skin deformities if no appropriate
treatment is available," said Fatih Abdul-Salam, a
dermatologist at Qadissiyah General Hospital. He said
leishmaniasis is transmitted by the bite of the
midge-like female phlebotomine sandflies - tiny
sand-coloured blood-sucking flies. "The disease has
spread because of the lack of medical measures in
the province and the lack of medicines, as most of
those available have expired," Abdul-Salam said.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the
currently-used drugs are in any case toxic, and have
severe adverse reactions. They are also very costly.
Nearly half of the current cases are in the Siniya area,
about 15km west of Qadissiyah's provincial capital,
Diwaniyah. "About a month ago, we informed the
provincial officials about the spread of this disease in
our area and that we did not have enough medicines
for it," said Farhan Mohammed, the head of Siniya local
council. "But no one responded in a serious way and
that contributed to the spread of this disease, as our
modest efforts in the area's medical centre were not
enough," Mohammed said. According to WHO, the 20
or so infective species or subspecies of the parasite
cause a range of symptoms, some of which are
common (fever, malaise, weight loss, anaemia) - and
swelling of the spleen, liver and lymph nodes in its
visceral form. Cutaneous leishmaniasis - the most
common form - causes 1-200 simple skin lesions
which self-heal within a few months but which leave
unsightly scars. Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis begins
with skin ulcers causing massive tissue destruction,
especially of the nose and mouth.)

Thousands of cases of Leishmaniasis have been diagnosed in soldiers who have deployed to Iraq and/or Afghanistan.
A much smaller number of cases have been diagnosed in civilian contractor employees due to a lack of awareness or
concern.  In December of 2003 we, not the doctors,  finally figured out that leishmaniasis was what was attacking my
husband's reconstructed leg.  There was article about it in USA Today.  We contacted as many contractors as we could
think of and most of them had not been warned to take precautions against sandfly bites.
With the potentially long latency period that Leishmaniasis species are capable of there are likely thousands of more cases
that have gone undiagnosed in unsuspecting soldiers and civilian contractors.
The US military claims the large percentage of leishmaniasis cases that have been diagnosed are of the cutaneous
species  L major.  It is claimed that this species is of little concern as it only causes lesions on the skin and does not
visceralize.  Unfortunately this is not always true.   It has not yet been proven why some species of Leishmaniasis limit
themselves to skin lesions and others migrate to the bones and organs.  It is thought to be as simple as the temperature
variation from the skin to the body's core.
Leishmaniasis major is evolving, becoming more and more diffused and showing tendencies to visceralize.  Whether this is
a natural mutation or is being provoked by  environmental contaminates such as depleted uranium or others is also not
known.   Leishmaniasis tropica is known to visceralize and is endemic to urban areas of Iraq and Afghanistan.
All cases of leishmaniasis should be of concern as the parasite is blood borne and can be transmitted sexually,
congenitally, and by blood transfusion.  Diagnoses can be difficult and becomes more difficult the longer you have it.
The DBA insurance companies, the workmans compensation that contract employees are stuck with,  are taking advantage
of this difficulty in diagnosing to refuse to pay for medical treatment and lost wages.

Contact  Marcie Hascall Clark   junglem@yahoo.com  321 799 6799
Biotechnology gone awry
or Simple Psycosis?
There's a feeling of bugs
crawling under your skin, day
and night; continuously
haunting you. Sharp stings
from what feels like bees
constantly torment you,
keeping you awake for days
on end. Intense burning and
itching from these unseen
forces invade your life,
robbing you of your everyday
activities, causing fear and
agony as the time wears on,
with no end in sight. To top it
all off, to your horror you
discover that strange red,
blue, black, white, and
translucent fibers are literally
coming out of your pores,
accompanied by strange
black specks. Then the
fatigue and joint pain begin.

Sound like something out of a
science fiction movie? It's not.
Everyday thousands of
people across the country are
experiencing these horrible
symptoms. Many times, their
family and friends do not
believe, and leave them to
endure their suffering alone.
They are called crazy. They
are told they have delusions
of parasites, or DOP for short.
They are labeled, ridiculed,
humiliated, and most of all,
scared. They have a
condition known as
Morgellons Disease
Ben Vogle  back in
Judged fit enough to set off on a 500-mile
trek to the South Pole with James
Cracknell over Christmas and the New
Year, Ben Fogle appeared to have made a
full recovery from the flesh-eating
disease that he contracted while filming
Extreme Dreams in Peru last summer.
Now, alas, the intrepid television
presenter tells me that it has returned
with a vengeance.

"I am facing six weeks of chemotherapy
and going to hospital for several hours a
day to be put on drips to treat the
condition," says Fogle, 35, of his battle
with leishmaniasis. "I am really frustrated
as I am normally so active."

Most people who are diagnosed with the
condition take months to convalesce and
Fogle accepts that he may have been
reckless to have headed off to the South
Pole so soon after completing his initial
course of treatment. The potentially life-
threatening condition is transmitted by
the bite of a species of sand fly and can
cause extensive disfigurement. Fogle,
speaking to me at the launch of the Royal
Parks Half Marathon in Hyde Park, was,
however, confident that he would be able
to beat it.
"I have written a book with James about
our trip to the South Pole which is coming
out in June and I have already signed up
to launch it in person at the Cheltenham
Literary Festival," he says. "It is an
engagement I am determined to keep,
come what may."

Ben In Hospital
Tuesday Nov 18 2008

Ben Fogle has started treatment for
Leishmaniasis Vianna, a rather unpleasant
skin eating parasite passed by the bite of a
sand fly. Ben contracted the parasite while
filming in Peru.

Ben currently has a deep lesion an inch in
diameter on his arm however Mucocutaneous
leishmaniasis produces destructive and
disfiguring lesions of the face and left
untreated can lead to death.

Mucocutaneous leishmaniasis is treated with a
thirty day course of toxic pentavalent
antimonials in high dose administered daily by
IV infusion. As pentavalent is toxic and
classified as a ‘poison’ side effects included
aching, arthralgia, fatigue, gastrointestinal
upset, elevation of amylase, lipase, and liver
enzyme levels, leukopenia, anemia, and
electrocardiographic abnormalities. The
treatment can be traumatic to the patient, and
many are hospitalised for the duration.

Ben is responding well to the course of
medication which he is receiving daily by a
team of experts at the University College

Ben’s health is being monitored closely by a
team of doctors and is undergoing a full
medical, incluiding ECG’s and blood tests
every other day.

‘I am feeling frustrated, but reassured that I am
in expert hands, which is more than can be
said for the 12 million people who also suffer
leishmania in South America and Africa each
year, many of whom sadly die’.

‘While the treatment is unpleasant, I am
reassured that it has a high success rate and
would like to thank all the NHS staff at UCH for
their kind, professional care and help
especially in these first few difficult days of

‘I would like to thank everyone for their kind
thoughts and reassure everyone that apart
from the rather large hole in one arm and the
canula in the other, I am feeling optimistic and
looking forward to the completion of the course
and heading to Antarctica which I am relieved
to say has no skin eating parasites’.
Diffuse Cutaneous

Diffuse cutaneous
leishmaniasis is a rare
form of dermal infection,
thus far found in Ethiopia
and adjacent East Africa
and in Central and South
America.  Diffuse
cutaneous leishmaniasis
begins as a single skin
nodule, which continues
spreading until the entire
body is covered by bizarre
nodular lesions. These
lesions, which resemble
keloids or large verrucae,
are frequently confused
with the nodules of
lepromatous leprosy.  The
lesions do not ulcerate but
contain vast aggregates of
foamy macrophages
stuffed with leishmania.
Patients are usually
unresponsive not only to
leishmanin but also to
other skin antigens, and
the lesions often respond
poorly to treatment.
American doctors worry that North
American sandflies, which carry
another form of the disease, could
pick up the Asian strain from
returned veterans. It could then
spread through the general
Story here
A Genetic Link Found in Far-Flung
Victims of a Lethal Form of a Parasitic

Whether someone bitten by a sandfly goes on
to develop the most lethal form of leishmaniasis
is determined partly by the victim’s own genes,
a new study suggests.

Leishmaniasis, caused by parasites injected by
sandfly bites, has two forms: painful skin sores
(known to American troops in Iraq as “Baghdad
boils”) or, in less than 20 percent of cases, the
visceral form, sometimes called “kala azar,” that
attacks the organs and is fatal if untreated.
About 400,000 visceral cases develop annually,
90 percent of them in three places far from one
another and with different parasite subspecies:
northeastern Brazil, the India-Bangladesh
border and the Horn of Africa.

Because the disease hits some families harder,
a genetic propensity to get it has been long
suspected. The study, published in Nature
Genetics last week, compared DNA in almost
6,000 blood samples from India and Brazil. Both
Indians and Brazilians who got visceral
leishmaniasis had similar DNA variations.

Researchers are not sure what those mutations
do, but the nearest stretch of DNA determines
how white blood cells “grab” invaders to trigger
immune responses, said Peter J. Donnelly, an
Oxford statistics professor who also heads the
Wellcome Trust Center for Human Genetics and
was one of the paper’s authors.

While it is widely known that immune-system
genes influence susceptibility to cancer,
learning that they may also control susceptibility
to a parasitic disease was “quite interesting,”
Dr. Donnelly said.