Objectives: In Afghanistan zoonotic cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) due to Leishmania major has been less widely reported than anthroponotic CL due to L. tropica. However, an outbreak of zoonotic CL occurred amongst a group of British soldiers at a military camp near Mazar-e-Sharif in the Balkh province of northern Afghanistan in 2004.
Methods: A study was performed to assess the epidemiology, clinical features, parasitology results, treatment outcomes and environmental health measures associated with this incident.
Results: Twenty (17%) of 120 soldiers developed CL due to L. major and the risk of infection increased with the proximity of their accommodation to an area of recently cleared scrub, where many wild rodents were observed. Most cases had features of local dissemination, including secondary lesions from the pseudo-Koebner phenomenon, sporotrichoid lymphatic spread, lymphadenopathy and satellite papules or milia formation around healing lesions. Several cases responded poorly to fluconazole and low dose (10 mg/kg) sodium stibogluconate, which were considered suitable treatments at the time. Environmental health measures at the military camp were found to be deficient.
Conclusions: Zoonotic CL due to L. major is a significant threat for foreign troops based in Balkh, Afghanistan and may present with unusually severe clinical features and be resistant to previously recommended treatments.
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