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Leishmaniasis is caused by several species of flagellated protozoan parasites found particularly in Africa, Latin America, Asia, the Mediterranean basin and the Middle East. In its more severe forms, the disease can cause disfigurement and death. Worldwide prevalence is estimated to be approximately 12 million cases, with annual mortality of about 60,000.

The first line drugs for treatment of leishmaniasis remain expensive, require repeated injections, and are associated with undesirable side effects. Drug resistance also is becoming common in some areas. Vector and reservoir controls are not applicable in every epidemiological setting and require infrastructure and vigilance beyond the capability of many endemic countries. Vaccination, therefore, remains the best hope to control all forms of the disease.

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