Leishmania Braziliensis from the Pacific Coast Region of Colombia: Foci of Transmission, Clinical Spectrum and Isoenzyme Phenotypes

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  • * Centro Internacional de Investigaciones Médicas, Tulane International Collaboration in Infectious Diseases Research Program-COLCIENCIAS, Apartado Aéreo 5390, Cali, Colombia
  • ** Departamento de Medicina, División de Dermatología, Hospital Universitario, Cali, Colombia
  • Department of Tropical Medicine, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana

Tegumentary leishmaniasis is highly prevalent in the Pacific coast region of Colombia. We have identified 90 foci of transmission in this region based on 179 parasitologically diagnosed patients. Human transmission occurred in mangrove forests, secondary growth and intervened tropical rain forest. A parasitological diagnosis, that is, either isolation or visualization of Leishmania was made in 68.6% of suspected cases. Three phenotypically distinguishable groups of L. braziliensis were encountered based on isoenzymes: L. b. panamensis variants (82%), variants of L. b. braziliensis (14.5%), and stocks intermediate between L. b. panamensis and L. b. guyanensis reference strains (3.5%). The L. b. braziliensis variants produced cutaneous disease alone relatively infrequently (12% of classified cutaneous stocks) but were more frequently (38% of all mucosal stocks) isolated from mucosal lesions. Leishmania infection of the mucuous membranes caused a wide spectrum of disease, severity being closely related to time of evolution. Both contiguous and metastatic spread to the mucous membranes was supported by the clinical course of 19 mucosal cases.