Life cycle of Leishmania protozoans, the cause of leishmaniasis in humans

Life cycle of Leishmania protozoans, the cause of leishmaniasis in humans
Photographer: Centers for Disease Control/Division of Parasitic Diseases and MalariaRights holder: Centers for Disease Control/Division of Parasitic Diseases and Malaria

Protozoans in the family Leishmania are well known as the cause of leishmaniasis in humans. Leishmaniasis is transmitted by the bite of infected female phlebotomine sandflies (Psychodidae:Phlebotominae).  The sandflies inject the infective stage (i.e., promastigotes) from their proboscis during blood meals (1).  Promastigotes that reach the puncture wound are phagocytized by macrophages (2) and other types of mononuclear phagocytic cells.  Progmastigotes transform in these cells into the tissue stage of the parasite (i.e., amastigotes) (3), which multiply by simple division and proceed to infect other mononuclear phagocytic cells (4).  Parasite, host, and other factors affect whether the infection becomes symptomatic and whether cutaneous or visceral leishmaniasis results.  Sandflies become infected by ingesting infected cells during blood meals (5,6).  In sandflies, amastigotes transform into promastigotes, develop in the gut (7) (in the hindgut for leishmanial organisms in the Viannia subgenus; in the midgut for organisms in the Leishmania subgenus), and migrate to the proboscis (8).

From Centers for Disease Control Parasites and Health website.