A Newly Emerged Cutaneous Leishmaniasis Focus in Northern Israel and Two New Reservoir Hosts of Leishmania major

Roy Faiman*, Ibrahim Abbasi, Charles Jaffe, Yoav Motro, Abdelmagid Nasereddin, Lionel F. Schnur, Moshe Torem, Francine Pratlong, Jean Pierre Dedet, Alon Warburg

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

36 Scopus citations


In 2006/7, 18 cases of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) were reported for the first time from Sde Eliyahu (pop. 650), a village in the Beit She'an valley of Israel. Between 2007-2011, a further 88 CL cases were diagnosed bringing the total to 106 (16.3% of the population of Sde Eliyahu). The majority of cases resided in the south-western part of the village along the perimeter fence. The causative parasite was identified as Leishmania major Yakimoff & Schokhor, 1914 (Kinetoplastida: Trypanosomatidae). Phlebotomus papatasi (Scopoli), 1786 (Diptera: Psychodidae) was found to be the most abundant phlebotomine species comprising 97% of the sand flies trapped inside the village, and an average of 7.9% of the females were positive for Leishmania ITS1 DNA. Parasite isolates from CL cases and a sand fly were characterized using several methods and shown to be L. major. During a comprehensive survey of rodents 164 Levant voles Microtus guentheri Danford & Alston, 1880 (Rodentia: Cricetidae) were captured in alfalfa fields bordering the village. Of these 27 (16.5%) tested positive for Leishmania ITS1 DNA and shown to be L. major by reverse line blotting. A very high percentage (58.3% - 21/36) of Tristram's jirds Meriones tristrami Thomas, 1892 (Rodentia: Muridae), found further away from the village also tested positive for ITS1 by PCR. Isolates of L. major were successfully cultured from the ear of a wild jird found positive by ITS1 PCR. Although none of the wild PCR-positive voles exhibited external pathology, laboratory-reared voles that were infected by intradermal L. major inoculation, developed patent lesions and sand flies became infected by feeding on the ears of these laboratory-infected voles. This is the first report implicating M. guentheri and M. tristrami as reservoirs of Leishmania. The widespread co-distribution of M. guentheri and P. papatasi, suggests a significant threat from the spread of CL caused by L. major in the Middle East, central Asia and southern Europe.

Original languageAmerican English
Article numbere2058
JournalPLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2013


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