Cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis in the Middle East has been known since the early 1900s. Recent epidemiological studies show that they are re-emerging as important public health problems in areas long believed to be disease free. Cutaneous leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania tropica, has become a significant problem in northern Israel and parts of the West Bank, whereas zoonotic foci of Leishmania major in the Jericho area and Negev desert present a threat to increasing populations. Canine leishmaniasis, caused by Leishmania infantum, is now highly prevalent in central Israel and encroaching on urban areas. Recent studies on the vectors and reservoir hosts, in addition to the molecular characterization of Leishmania, are helping us understand the dynamics of these diseases.
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We thank all those people who helped facilitate Israeli–Palestinian scientific collaboration. Research performed at the authors’ laboratories was supported by grant number SO 220/5-1 from the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG): The Palestinian-Israeli-German Cooperative project on Leishmaniosis in Israel and The West Bank; the Center for the Study of Emerging Diseases; the USAID CDR Program, grant number TA-MOU-00-C20-025PH and the Israeli Ministry for the Environment, grant number 802-2.