Leishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia: Current situation and future perspectives

Leishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia

  • Elfadil Abass Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Kingdom Saudi Arabia
  • Zainab Al-Hashem
  • Lamya Zohair Yamani
Keywords: Epidemiology, Leishmaniasis, Saudi Arabia


Background and Objective: Leishmaniasis is endemic in Saudi Arabia with cases reported in many regions. This review refers to publications on leishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia and discusses issues related to parasite species, clinical manifestation and diagnosis.

Methods: This research was done at Imam Abdulrahman Bin Faisal University, Dammam, Saudi Arabia by systematic literature search on PubMed and Google Scholar databases from 1989 to 2018. Selection criteria included original articles reporting on visceral leishmaniasis (VL) or cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) in Saudi Arabia.

Results: The search identified 16 eligible articles, six for VL and 10 for CL. VL was reported in areas known to be non-endemic. Leishmania donovani was the main cause for human VL while Leishmania infantum seemed to cause the disease in animals. Dogs were considered the main reservoir hosts and black rats (Rattus rattus) were potential hosts. VL mainly affected infants and young children. It is important to note that VL diagnosis was based on either invasive parasite detection procedures or serologically using indirect hemagglutination test. CL represented the most frequent clinical form with the main endemic foci reported in the South-West and Eastern regions. CL appeared to have no demographic or socioeconomic restriction; it affected both rural and urban citizens, with the majority occurring among farmers. Travelling was recognized as an important risk factor. Leishmania tropica and Leishmania major were recognized as the main causes for CL.

Conclusion: This report summarizes the potential risks for VL and CL in Saudi Arabia in areas known to be non-endemic. There are substantial gaps in knowledge and practices in regard to leishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia, highlighting the need for more research and medical surveillance targeting the disease in humans and animals.

doi: https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.36.4.2121

How to cite this:
Abass E, Al-Hashem Z, Yamani LZ. Leishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia: Current situation and future perspectives. Pak J Med Sci. 2020;36(4):836-842. doi: https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.36.4.2121

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

How to Cite
Abass, E., Al-Hashem, Z., & Yamani, L. (2020). Leishmaniasis in Saudi Arabia: Current situation and future perspectives. Pakistan Journal of Medical Sciences, 36(4). https://doi.org/10.12669/pjms.36.4.2121
Systematic Review