Fighting communicable and neglected diseases

Fighting leishmaniasis in Brazil

Brazil shows a contradictory epidemiological profile. There is a minority population with health indicators similar to those found in European countries. While the majority of people live in conditions similar to those found in Africa and other poor regions of the world. From the perspective of parasitic diseases, this disadvantaged population often does not have clean water or a basic sanitation system.

Dr. Romulo Maciel Filho, Director of the Aggeu Magalhaes Center, Recife, Brazil

Location of Project Brazil, Pernambuco Department
Name of Association
Aggeu Magalhães Research Center
of the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation
Project Partners
(financial and operational)
  • Public Research Centers (Aggeu Magalhães/Fiocruz- Pernambuco)
  • Referral Hospital of the State of Pernambuco
  • City Halls of the five municipalities concerned

Program description

Leishmaniasis is endemic in 88 countries and even though it affects nearly 2 million new patients each year transmitted by a tiny mosquito – the sand-fly, it is still among the world’s neglected diseases.

For years it has been classified as a disease restricted to forest and then peri-rural areas, leishmaniasis is now moving towards urban areas and unless it is effectively monitored, it will become a new burden to large cities that are already facing other epidemics such as dengue fever. As deforestation expands, the mosquito which transmits leishmaniasis will find a host in dogs and endanger the lives of the whole family.

In a partnership with the Sanofi Espoir Foundation, the Aggeu Magalhães Research Center (attached to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) launched a monitoring and care program in 2003, in close cooperation with five municipalities in the Pernambuco region to assess the epidemiology of leishmaniasis.

This program builds on four actions lines to boost the effectiveness of treatment:

  • Reinforcing the training of technicians and community health workers to ensure early detection,
  • Improving the quality of the diagnosis of human and animal leishmaniasis, and monitoring treatment,
  • Increasing education and community awareness about the disease and preventive actions,
  • Improving the epidemiological monitoring and understanding of the factors underlying different types of leishmaniasis in rural areas.

Since the beginning of the program, 824 health professionals (doctors and veterinarians) were trained.

In July 2012, the Sanofi Espoir Foundation selection committee approved the extension of the program to three new endemic areas of Brazil where scientific and/or intervention units have been located: the State of Maranhao, the State of Paraiba and the State of Rio Grand do Norte do. This new phase is based on two pillars:

  • The introduction of a multidisciplinary model of care for the disease with the geo-location of micro-endemic areas, the organization of programs for early detection and prevention initiatives with target populations, including the monitoring of patients
  • The implementation of an epidemiological surveillance system supported by the regular training of healthcare professionals.