Leishmaniasis is a neglected tropical disease caused by the Leishmania
parasite and transmitted by the Phlebotominae subfamily of sandflies, which infects humans and other mammals. Clinical manifestations of the disease include cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (MCL) and visceral leishmaniasis (VL) with a majority (more than three-quarters) of worldwide cases being CL. There are a number of risk factors for CL, such as the presence of multiple reservoirs, the movement of individuals, inequality, and social determinants of health. However, studies related to the role of these factors in the dynamics of CL have been limited. In this work, we (i) develop and analyze a vector-borne epidemic model to study the dynamics of CL in two ecologically distinct CL-affected regions—Madrid, Spain and Tolima, Colombia; (ii) derived three different methods for the estimation of model parameters by reducing the dimension of the systems; (iii) estimated reproduction numbers for the 2010 outbreak in Madrid and the 2016 outbreak in Tolima; and (iv) compared the transmission potential of the two economically-different regions and provided different epidemiological metrics that can be derived (and used for evaluating an outbreak), once R0
is known and additional data are available. On average, Spain has reported only a few hundred CL cases annually, but in the course of the outbreak during 2009–2012, a much higher number of cases than expected were reported and that too in the single city of Madrid. Cases in humans were accompanied by sharp increase in infections among domestic dogs, the natural reservoir of CL. On the other hand, CL has reemerged in Colombia primarily during the last decade, because of the frequent movement of military personnel to domestic regions from forested areas, where they have increased exposure to vectors. In 2016, Tolima saw an unexpectedly high number of cases leading to two successive outbreaks. On comparing, we estimated reproduction number of the Madrid outbreak to be 3.1 (with range of 2.8–3.9), which was much higher than reproduction number estimates of the Tolima first outbreak 1.2 (with range of 1.1–1.3), and the estimate for the second outbreak in Tolima of 1.019 (with range of 1.018–1.021). This suggests that the epidemic outbreak in Madrid was much more severe than the Tolima outbreak, even though Madrid was economically better-off compared to Tolima. It indicates a potential relationship between urban development and increasing health disparities.
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