Fighting Leishmaniasis in Brazil

Partnership Objectives

  1. Train healthcare professionals
  2. Educate the populations
  3. Follow patients under and after treatment
  4. Epidemiology / follow-up of the evolution of the virus

Sanofi-aventis and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation partnership to fight against leishmaniasis in Brazil. Sanofi-aventis and Oswaldo Cruz Foundation partnership to fight against leishmaniasis in Brazil. Copyright Gilles Corre

What are the health needs and challenges?

Leishmaniasis is endemic in 88 countries and even though it affects nearly 2 million new patients each year transmitted by a tiny phlebotomine sand-fly, it is still among the world’s neglected diseases.

For years it has been classified as a disease restricted to forest and then peri-rural areas, leishmaniasis is now moving towards urban areas and unless it is effectively monitored, it will become a new burden to large cities that are already facing other epidemics such as dengue fever. As deforestation expands, the mosquito which transmits leishmaniasis will find a host in dogs and endanger the lives of the whole family.

Between 1980 and 2005, Brazil recorded 671,225 cases of leishmaniasis (visceral + skin), and the Northern and North-East Region account together for more than 70% of the cases. Both forms of the disease account for 3% of the cases and 1% of the deaths due to all infectious diseases that receive compulsory notification in Brazil.

Description of partnership activities and how they address needs and challenges

In a partnership with the Sanofi Espoir Foundation, the Aggeu Magalhães Research Center (attached to the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation) launched a monitoring and care program in 2003, in close cooperation with five municipalities in the Pernambuco region to assess the epidemiology of leishmaniasis. This program built on 3 actions lines to boost the effectiveness of treatment:

  • Training technicians and community health workers to carry out early detection
  • Transporting patients and monitoring treatment
  • Supporting collective action to prevent the disease

The work is being carried out in close collaboration with city halls, as these manage the Family Health Program and lead prevention campaigns in schools. It is vital to mobilize all players to ensure that patients are transported as soon as possible to reference centers, where they can be accurately diagnosed and receive closely monitored treatment.

Summary of impact and forward looking information

Through the program designed by the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation, and its large database on the disease’s epidemiology, this initiative will act as a model for similar projects in other endemic regions and will help set up a national plan to sight leishmaniasis, which has already been diagnosed in nearly 2,700 towns and cities across the country.

Since the beginning of the program, 824 health professionals (doctors and veterinarians) have been trained. In Brazil, Sanofi produces a drug against leishmaniasis which is provided at a preferential price in affected countries. More than 6 million doses have been distributed in 20156. Today it is administered by injection only, but Sanofi is working to develop a new formulation for skin application.

The program is currently ongoing with a Sanofi Brazil affiliate, and has been extended to the area around Baturrite, west of Fortaleza.

Partnership information

Company(ies) Sanofi

Partner(s) Aggeu Magalhães, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz (Fiocruz), Local government & associations, Referral Hospital of the State of Pernambuco

Type of Partner(s) Academia / Hospitals, Government, NGOs

Therapeutic Focus Neglected Tropical Diseases

Disease(s) Leishmaniasis

Program Type(s) Health System Infrastructure - Outreach & Medical Services, Health System Infrastructure - Training, Prevention Programs - Awareness & Outreach

Targeted Population(s) Children, Health professionals, Men, Mothers, Patients in needs of treatment, People with low income, Women

Region(s) Latin America & Caribbean

Number of Countries 1

Country(ies) Brazil

Start Date 2003

More information Sanofi Espoir Foundation

Completed date 2016

« From the perspective of parasitic diseases, [Brazil's] disadvantaged population often does not have clean water or a basic sanitation system. »

Dr Romulo Maciel Filho, Director of the Aggeu Magalhaes Centre, Recife, Brazil