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Human leishmaniasis is a protozoan disease transmitted by sand flies and endemic in the Mediterranean region. In Italy, leishmaniasis is present in the south and the western coastal regions, with an epidemic peak detected in northern Italy in the early 1970s.


To examine temporal trends, and demographic, clinical, geographical and environmental features of human leishmaniasis cases recorded by the local health unit (LHU) of Bologna, northern Italy.


In this retrospective observational study, we analysed human leishmaniasis cases recorded from 2004 to 2022 within the Bologna LHU. We also conducted serological investigations for canine leishmaniasis in owned dogs living near the place of infection of human cases.


In total, 173 cases of human leishmaniasis were detected, and 154 cases were considered autochthonous. An increase of human cases was observed since 2004, with incidence peaks above 2 cases/100,000 inhabitants in 2013, 2018 and 2022; epidemic peaks were preceded by dry summers. Most cases lived in the plain and hilly areas less than 400 m above sea level and many resided in isolated housing, in city outskirts, and/or near uncultivated areas, watercourses and railway sections. The incidence of canine leishmaniasis did not increase in the study period.


An epidemic of human leishmaniasis with fluctuating annual numbers of cases, probably related to environmental and climatic factors, was identified in the Bologna LHU. Understanding the risk factors and the environmental characteristics related to places of infection is crucial to evaluate the public health implications of leishmaniasis.


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