Spread con­cerns ex­perts

7 Days in Dubai - - GLOBAL NEWS - @B_shosh shoshana@7days.ae

A flesh-eating dis­ease is spread­ing in some coun­tries in the Mid­dle East af­ter orig­i­nat­ing in Syria, in­fec­tious dis­ease ex­perts say.

The dis­ease, known as cu­ta­neous leish­ma­ni­a­sis, has in­fected refugees trapped in con­flict zones in Syria and Iraq, caus­ing large open sores that can lead to scar­ring and per­ma­nent dis­fig­ure­ment, ac­cord­ing to re­searchers.

“The dis­ease has been in Syria for cen­turies, and many other coun­tries in the Mid­dle East, but with the start of the civil war, by 2010 and 2011, the num­ber of cases started to rise, be­cause the health sys­tem started to col­lapse,” said Dr Alvaro AcostaSer­rano, who car­ried out re­search on the dis­ease for Liver­pool School of Trop­i­cal Medicine.

“We es­ti­mate that more than 200,000 peo­ple may be in­fected at the mo­ment in Le­banon, Syria, Jor­dan, south­ern Turkey, north­ern Iraq and Is­rael,” he said.

There is no vac­cine for the dis­ease, which can only be treated with the drug sodium sti­boglu­conate (SSG), which is only avail­able by in­jec­tion. By Shoshana Ke­dem

“The good news is that the dis­ease is treat­able if we get more aware­ness, more fund­ing and more sup­port for the health work­ers and the NGOs to deal with the dis­ease, then that will min­imise the im­pact of it spread­ing,” said Acosta-Ser­rano.

There have been cases re­ported in In­dia and also in Saudi Ara­bia, but nowhere else in the GCC, he said.

“We have all the in­gre­di­ents for the cook­ing recipe here,” said Dr Stefan We­ber, a mi­cro­bi­ol­o­gist con­sul­tant at Sheikh Khal­ifa Med­i­cal City in Abu Dhabi.

“Do­mes­tic an­i­mals and some of the ro­dents we have here could also har­bour the ill­ness and trans­mit it to the sand flies,” We­ber said, out­lin­ing the typ­i­cal cy­cle of sand­flies in­fect­ing hu­mans, and hu­mans then pass­ing it onto other sand­flies.

“Just be­cause we haven’t seen any cases now doesn’t mean we won’t see any in the fu­ture, it just means we need to be vig­i­lant,” he added.

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