Current Context: 

In 2023, India achieved its first-ever target of eliminating Kala Azar which was set by the World Health Organization (WHO).

About Current Context: 

  • The National Vector Borne Disease Control Programme reported a decrease in Kala Azar cases and deaths from 891 cases and three deaths in 2022 to 595 in 2021.
  • In October 2023, Bangladesh became the first country in the world to be officially validated by the WHO for eliminating Kala Azar as a public health problem.

About kala azar:

  • Kala-azar, or visceral leishmaniasis, is an indigenous disease caused by a protozoan parasite of the genus Leishmania.
  • This is sometimes referred to as Black Fever or Dumdum Fever.
  • In India, Leishmania donovani is the sole parasite that causes this illness.

Transmission and Symptoms:

  • Kala-azar, a disease primarily transmitted by sandflies, is the only known vector in India, specifically from the species Phlebotomus argentipes.
  • It causes fever, weight loss, and swelling of the spleen and liver. If not treated, it can be deadly in 95% of instances.


  • India reported 530 cases and four fatalities in 2023, a decrease from prior years.
  • Additionally, there were 286 occurrences of post-kala azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL).

What is post -kala azar dermal leishmaniasis (PKDL)?:

  • Post Kala-azar Dermal Leishmaniasis (PKDL) is a condition when Leishmania donovani invades skin cells, resides and develops there and manifests as dermal leisions.
  • Some of the kala-azar cases manifests PKDL after a few years of treatment.
  •  Recently it is believed that PKDL may appear without passing through visceral stage. 


  • In India, the main therapy for kala-azar is injectable liposomal amphotericin B.
  • For PKDL, the conventional therapy is 12 weeks of oral miltefosine, with the dosage adjusted according to the patient’s age and weight.

Prevention and control

  • Early diagnosis and effective prompt treatment: WHO-negotiated price schemes and medicine donation programs have improved access to effective anti-leishmanial medicines, particularly for kala-azar, reducing disease prevalence, preventing disabilities, and monitoring disease spread.
  • Vector control: Control methods for disease transmission include insecticide spray, insecticide-treated nets, environmental management, and personal protection, aimed at reducing the number of sandflies.
  • Effective disease surveillance: Prompt monitoring and action are crucial during epidemics and high case fatality rates under treatment.
  • Social mobilisation and strengthening partnerships: Effective behavioral change interventions must be locally adapted and partnered with various stakeholders and vector-borne disease control programs for effective community mobilization and education.

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