ABSTRACT: The epidemiological situation of leishmaniasis in Tunisia is characterised by the co-existence in a very limited territory (165,000 km2, Sahara included), of 4 clinical forms: the infantile visceral leishmaniasis (VL) and 3 cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) forms (sporadic, zoonotic and chronic). In addition to the useful epidemiological data, identification of the causative parasitic species is essential to determine the geographic distribution of each form and to select appropriate therapeutic procedure and suitable control measures. 226 Leishmania isolates, 135 human's coming from 59 VL cases and 76 CL cases and 91 canine's were identified by the isoenzyme electrophoresis reference technique. Results confirm the endemicity of the 4 forms mentioned above. The sporadic CL, confined to the North of the country is principally caused by L. infantum MON-24 (72.2%). VL which has reached the southern ridge in the central area of Tunisia, in the governorate of Kairouan (36 typed isolates), presents an unusual high proportion of L. infantum MON-24. In fact, this zymodeme, rather dermotropic is responsible for 47.2% of the cases vs 13% in the other regions of the country where L. infantum MON-1 remains predominant with 78.3% of typed isolates, the difference being statistically significant (P < 0.01). A third zymodeme, L. infantum MON-80 is sporadically pointed out during VL or in sporadic CL. Despite the high number of canine isolates (n=91) coming from 6 governorates, only the zymodeme L. infantum MON-1 was identified, letting hypothetic the reservoir of the 2 other zymodemes of the species identified in humans. Those absences may be related to cross infections, with a low sensitivity to L. infantum MON-24 leading to a selection of MON-1 at the time of culture passages. Hence it is important to develop molecular tools of direct identification on initial biological samples without going through cultures. Zoonotic CL remains the predominant cutaneous form in the central and southern area of Tunisia. However L. killicki, agent of the chronic CL, is confirming its presence out of its original focus of Tataouine in the southern-east of the country in both zoonotic CL and VL areas.
Bulletin de la Société de pathologie exotique 10/2008; 101(4):323-8.