Cutaneous leishmaniasis factsheet


Cutaneous leishmaniasis is a skin infection caused by a microscopic parasite called Leishmania. It causes ulcers or scabs on the skin of exposed body parts, like the:

  • wrists
  • ankles
  • lower legs
  • face.

Infected sandflies spread the parasite. They pick the parasite up from animals and pass it on to humans when they bite the skin.

There are no sandflies in Australia that are known to pass on the parasite, and it cannot be passed on from an infected child or adult to another person. 

All children with cutaneous leishmaniasis in Australia have caught their infection overseas, in countries, regions, and continents including:

  • Afghanistan
  • Africa
  • Pakistan
  • South America
  • The Middle East, including Iran.

 Signs and symptoms

The main symptom of cutaneous leishmaniasis is the development of large, crusted, open sores on the skin.


Your child’s doctor will be able to diagnose cutaneous leishmaniasis by doing a physical examination and taking a swab of the sores for testing.


Mild cases of Cutaneous leishmaniasis will get better on their own. 

If the sores are more severe or long-lasting, treatment can include: 

  • medicine given as a syrup or tablet
  • medicine through an intravenous (IV) cannula inserted into the vein
  • repeated injections around the skin sore.

Cutaneous leishmaniasis is a chronic condition, which means It grows slowly and is slow to cure. The infection will eventually be cured, but it can leave permanent scars.

Sores are not infectious and cannot spread to other people. Covering the sores can help keep them clean and stop them from drying up so they heal better.


School, activities, and self-esteem

Children with cutaneous leishmaniasis are not infectious to other children. There is no reason to stop them from going to school or activities. 

Because the condition is rare in Australia, other people may not understand that it cannot be spread. If your child’s school or other activities are having issues with your child’s sores, your doctor can contact them to provide appropriate information.

Sores and scarring from cutaneous leishmaniasis can be painful and difficult for children to manage.

Parents and carers can build their child’s self-esteem by:

  • talking about the infection, how it happened, and how it’s treated in simple terms
  • encouraging your child to help keep the sores clean, covered, and healing well
  • talking about parts of your child that are beautiful and not related to how a person looks, like their personality, their interests, and any other excellent skills they have.
Last updated Monday 11th March 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024