Transmission of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Venezuela reveals diverse and changing epidemiological landscapes, as well as a spectrum of clinical phenotypes presumed to be linked to a variety of Leishmania species. Central-western Venezuela constitutes one of the highest endemic epicenters in the country, and updated molecular epidemiological information is still lacking. Therefore, in this study we aimed to characterize the landscape of circulating Leishmania species across central-western Venezuela through the last two decades, performed comparisons of haplotype and nucleotide diversity, and built a geospatial map of parasite species distribution. A total of 120 clinical samples were collected from patients across the cutaneous disease spectrum, retrieving parasitic DNA, and further characterizing by PCR and sequencing of the HSP70 gene fragment. This data was later collated with further genetic, geospatial and epidemiological analyses. A peculiar pattern of species occurrence including Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis (77.63% N=59), Leishmania (Leishmania) infantum (14.47% N=11), Leishmania (Viannia) panamensis (5.26% N=4) and Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis (2.63% N=2) was revealed, also highlighting a very low genetic diversity amongst all analyzed sequences. Geographical distribution showed that most cases are widely distributed across the greater urban-sub urban area of the Irribaren municipality. L.(L.) amazonensis appears to be widely dispersed throughout Lara state. Statistical analyses failed to reveal significance for any comparisons, leading to conclude a lack of association between the infective Leishmania species and clinical phenotypes. To the best of our knowledge, this is an unprecedented study which addresses comprehensively the geographical distribution of Leishmania species in central-western Venezuela throughout the last two decades, and the first to incriminate L. (L.) infantum as an etiologic agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis in this region. Our findings support that Leishmania endemism in central-western Venezuela is caused mainly by L.(L.) amazonensis. Future studies are needed to unveil additional details on the ecological intricacies and transmission aspects of leishmaniasis (i.e. sampling phlebotomines and mammals) and to adopt adequate public health prevention and control strategies and mitigate disease impact in this endemic region.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Infectious Diseases