Leishmania, a flesh-eating parasite usually found in South America, may soon make its presence felt in the US because of climate change. The organism that causes this parasitic disease is normally found in the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe. But, a warning has been raised that by 2080, it might be a risk for 27 million Americans who might be exposed to the disease this parasite brings, reported the Daily Mail.

A terrible disease

Víctor Sánchez-Cordero, a researcher and ecology professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, was cited by UnDark as saying that this particular skin disease is connected to the change in the climate. Climate change can also bring the threat of even more zoonotic diseases. He added that an increasing number of cases of leishmaniasis in humans residing in the US will become more possible than before.

It coming across to the US is a serious matter. This is because according to researchers, the disease causes skin sores and can even result in damage to the organs.

What causes the skin affliction

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says the infection spreads through the sand fly, which is smaller than the mosquito. Researchers say the parasite will not be causing multiple infections just yet and it will take decades for it to reach critical mass. 

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One of the first patients was detected in 2014. A 27-month-old in perfect health had a lesion growing on the right upper eye and lower eyelids, cited in a study published in the journal Clinical Infectious Diseases. It took about a month of testing before the patient was diagnosed as having been infected by leishmania.

The parasite has been known to researchers since 2010, but it was only a rare occurrence and not spread in the general population. However, researchers have also given the warning that it should be treated seriously if it spreads in the US.

One study implicated climate change as the reason the parasite is spreading, slowly increasing the range where it is normally found. The most important factor is how the flesh-eating disease can spread, which usually entails what animals or insects can act as its carrier.

Leishmaniasis has been seen in the US, Mexico, and Canada. Mexico is generally recognized as the main source for its slow movement north. Carriers of the disease are mosquitoes, ticks, triatomine bugs, sandflies, and blackflies. A 2010 study, done at the University of Texas at Austin and the National Autonomous University of Mexico, used data from sandflies and rodents from Texas and northern Mexico with South America flesh-eating parasites.

One of the predictions by the scientists is that by 2020, rats and flies with the parasite will make headway to Oklahoma, Kansas, Arkansas, and Missouri. Another author of the study, Sahotra Sarkar, who studies integrative biology at the University of Texas, said more information is needed but the 2020 predictions are generally accurate about the South America flesh-eating parasites.

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