Flesh-Eating Parasite Spreads in the U.S.

A recent analysis by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has raised concerns about a flesh-eating parasitic disease spreading in parts of the United States.

Key Takeaways:

  • The disease, known as leishmaniasis, is transmitted through the bite of an infected female sand fly.
  • Historically linked to international travel, recent cases suggest local transmission.
  • The CDC believes the disease may be endemic in Texas and possibly other states.
  • Texas has reported 38 locally acquired cases from 2007 to 2022.
  • Prevention guidance includes wearing long sleeves or insect repellent outdoors.

Disease Details

Leishmaniasis, typically seen in individuals traveling to tropical or subtropical regions, is now being transmitted by sand flies in certain U.S. areas. The disease manifests when an infected female sand fly bites a person, using the blood to produce eggs.

Global Presence

While leishmaniasis is most prevalent in parts of Africa, Brazil, and the eastern Mediterranean region, including countries like Iraq, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen, its presence in the U.S. is alarming. The World Health Organization has been monitoring its global spread.

U.S. Impact

The CDC’s recent findings suggest that leishmaniasis might be a regular occurrence, especially in Texas. There have been unconfirmed reports of the disease in Florida, and past studies have indicated occasional cases in southeast Oklahoma and Arizona.

Vita Cama, a CDC microbiologist, mentioned, “Historically, leishmaniasis was linked to international travel.” However, recent analyses show cases in individuals with no travel history, indicating local transmission.

Transmission and Symptoms

Leishmaniasis can be hosted by other creatures, such as rodents, and transmitted via sand flies. The disease has various forms, with the most common causing ulcers and permanent scars. Some severe forms can even be fatal.

Texas Cases

From 2007 to 2022, Texas reported 117 total cases of leishmaniasis, with 38 being locally acquired. Most cases were near the Texas-Mexico border, but three were reported in Travis County. The Texas Department of State Health Services has emphasized the importance of considering leishmaniasis for patients with consistent symptoms, even if they haven’t traveled abroad recently.

CDC’s Recommendations

The CDC believes that Texas might be reporting more cases due to its robust reporting system. Until other states enhance their reporting procedures, the true extent of leishmaniasis in the U.S. remains uncertain.

For prevention, the CDC and the Texas Department of State Health Services recommend wearing long sleeves or using insect repellent when outdoors.


The emergence of leishmaniasis in the U.S. underscores the importance of monitoring and reporting such diseases. As the CDC continues its research, individuals are advised to take preventive measures and stay informed.