By Darnell Gardner, Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 Public Affairs
The U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 3 (NAMRU-3) in Cairo, Egypt, began scientific collaboration in September 2011 with the Moroccan Ministry of Health to work on the eradication of cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), a disfiguring skin condition caused by infection with the organism Leishmania major (L. major). The offending microbe, a resident of the rodent-sand fly ecosystem, is transmitted to humans by the bite of infected sand flies, which become infected when they feed on the feces or blood of an infected rodent. CL is a serious health problem in Morocco, with nearly 9,000 cases reported in 2010.
Over 2,500 U.S. personnel serving in the Middle East and Asia have contracted leishmaniasis at an estimated cost of over $20 million in treatment and lost personnel-hours. NAMRU-3’s Vector Biology Research Program’s active engagement in disease surveillance and novel research activities have served as an integral part of the Navy’s medical research mission to combat leishmaniasis.
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