What is Jihadist Disease? Here's All You Need To Know About It

By Varsha Pappachan

There are many kinds of parasitic skin diseases in the world. The most common ones are Scabies, Lice, Cutaneous Larva Migrans, Tungiasis, Myiasis, Ticks & Leishmaniasis, which is also called the 'Jihadist Disease'.

It is one of the worst skin diseases that is caused and spread by the bite of a particular kind of sandfiles, which are small sized and hairy biting flies predominantly found in the tropical and subtropical regions. These sandfiles are responsible for transmitting numerous diseases such as Leishmaniasis.

what is jihadist disease

IMAGE SOURCE: This media comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Public Health Image Library (PHIL)

The reason why this disease is colloquially called Jihadist disease is appalling and ironic both! It was reported and spread in large numbers in the Jihadi-occupied territories, as the flesh-eating disease.

It appeared simultaneously in the jihadist territories captured by Daesh [an acronym for Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS)].

It is an awful coincidence that it occurred in Syria & Iraq around the same time as it occurred in Daesh, inspite of the fact that it had never been previously identified in these areas.

Now, the question is what exactly is Leishmaniasis? What are its symptoms, effects and cure?

Well, Leishmaniasis, also known as Rose of Jericho or Jihadist disease, is an awful looking skin ailment that is caused by around 15 species of parasites brought about by the bites of female sandflies.

These parasites are capable of causing large dropping abrasions on the skins, if they are left untreated. This can encourage further infection by the bacteria, fungus, etc. The symptoms are skin abrasions or wounds that may usually take weeks or even months to break out after an individual is bitten by an infected sand fly.

The three main forms of Leishmaniasis are: 1) Visceral, also known as kala-azar, which can be fatal in most cases if untreated. 2) Mucocutaneous: It leads to the damage of the mucous membranes such as the ones in throat, mouth or nose, either fully or partially, and 3) Cutaneous: The most commonly occurring type of Leishmaniasis that affects body parts that are exposed.

It leads to lesions on the skin, primarily ulcers and thereafter permanent disability or scars. It may not be life-threatening entirely, but can still have devastating consequences.

The Cutaneous form has been majorly prevalent in the war-stricken or terrorist-occupied jihadist locations. The sandfiles possibly flourished on the numerous random dead bodies in the streets of the Jihadist areas such as Syria, Daesh, etc.

The Middle East specifically saw a surge in the disease in 2016, after millions of Syrian refugees migrated. The WHO had acknowledged and documented this outbreak among the Syrian migrants as an ongoing crisis. Poor living conditions, malnutrition, unhygienic environment, etc., were found to be the major risk factors causing it.

A couple of partial prevention methods are possible if, 1) The patient sleeps under nets treated with insecticide, or 2) Houses and animal shelters are sprayed with insecticides.

In case the patient is not treated soon, the Leishmaniasis could even turn fatal. The basic and traditional treatments could work, but may not be entirely reliable, as there may be a possibility of the survival of a few parasites, which could lead to a relapse. Additionally, the patient could act as a transmitter of the disease to another person or persons.

One interesting aspect is, the method of treatment, considering the place where the disease was detected. For example, for the Cutaneous Leishmaniasis, found in locations such as Syria, Irqa, etc., dosages of paromomycin, fluconazole, or pentamidine could be effective.

But this may be applicable only in cases where the immune system has not been considerably damaged. However, a treatment that may be best for this disease in humans is still unknown.

Apart from humans, Cutaneous Leishmaniasis is common in dogs and rodents. Certain topical treatments, depending on the severity could be effective. Scientists all over the world have been consistently working on figuring out the best possible treatment for Leishmaniasis.

In February 2017, they managed to release the first ever prototype of vaccine; however, the scientists have been striving to further work on it and have come up with the exact kind of vaccine that may be useful in tackling with the disease form reported from Syria or Iraq.

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    Read more about: disease
    Story first published: Saturday, March 31, 2018, 11:00 [IST]
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