KARACHI -  Malnutrition and immune deficiency are the primary causes of skin diseases like leishmaniasis in Pakistan, experts said on Sunday.

“Leishmaniasis is a major health threat to Pakistan. The problem is largely acute in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. Pakistani pilgrims coming back from different countries brought this infection with them. The infection screening systems should be setup at the pilgrim arrival points throughout the country. Leishmaniasis is transmitted by the bite of female phlebotomine sand fly. The last outbreak of leishmaniasis in Larkana Division of Sindh was monitored in 2001,” one of the experts said.

Dr Farooq Rahman Soomro, in-charge of Leprosy Centre in Larkana, Sindh and Adjunct Professor at Dr Panjwani Centre for Molecular Medicine and Drug Research (PCMD) at the University of Karachi, expressed these views while delivering a lecture at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCBS) on Saturday. Director of ICCBS Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary was also present on the occasion.

Dr Farooq Rahman Soomro said that in Sindh the infection of leishmaniasis was under control. This infection is known with its three main forms like visceral (also known as kala-azar and the most serious form of the disease), cutaneous (the most common form) and mucocutaneous, he said. He maintained that most of leishmania parasites were zoonotic. Leishmania was the most important parasite to affect domestic animals, he said. He said that leishmaniasis was caused by protozoan leishmania parasites, which were transmitted by the bite of infected female phlebotomine sandflies.

He said the insect was mostly active in humid environment during warmer months and at night, from dusk to dawn. The spread of this skin disease was associated with malnutrition, population displacement, poor housing, a weak immune system and a lack of financial resources, he said.

Talking about the symptoms of leishmaniasis, he said that symptoms were skin sores, which erupt weeks to months after the person affected is bitten by sand flies.

On the occasion, Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary said that malnutrition was the major reason for immunodeficiency worldwide. He maintained that infections and malnutrition had always been associated. Malnutrition and immune deficiency are the primary causes of leishmaniasis in the country, he observed, and mentioned that the disease affected some of the poorest people living in Sindh and other parts of the country.

He said this was unfortunate that general practitioners (healthcare providers) were not completely aware of transmission risks of leishmaniasis. They are usually not capable of even diagnosing the disease, which causes spread of the disease in the whole area, he said. Early diagnosis and effective case management reduces the prevalence of the disease and prevents disabilities and death, he maintained.



Our Staff Reporter