Abstract

The leishmaniasis is a complex disease system, caused by the protozoan parasite Leishmania and transmitted to humans by the vector Lutzomyia spp. Since it is listed as a neglected disease according to the World Health Organization, the aim of this study was to determine the current and future niche of cutaneous and visceral leishmaniasis in the Neotropical region. We built the ecological niche model (ENM) of cutaneous (N= 2 910 occurrences) and visceral (N= 851 occurrences) leishmaniasis using MaxEnt algorithm. Nine bioclimatic variables (BIO1, BIO4, BIO5, BIO6, BIO7, BIO12, BIO13, BIO14, BIO15 (downloaded from the Worldclim) and disease occurrences data were used for the construction of ENM for three periods (current, 2050 and 2070) and four climate change scenarios (RCP 2.6, 4.5, 6.0 y 8.5). We analyzed the number of pixels occupied, identity niche, modified niche (stable, loss, and gain) and seasonality. Our analyses indicated the expansion for cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), a comparison for visceral leishmaniasis (VL). We rejected the null hypothesis of niche identity between CL and VL with Hellinger’s index = 0.91 (0.92-0.98) and Schoener’s Index = 0.67 (0.85-1.00) but with an overlap niche of 56.3 %. The differences between the two leishmaniasis types were detected in relation to RCP scenarios and niche shifts (area gained / loss). Seasonality was more important for CL. We provided a current picture of CL and VL distributions and the predicted distributional changes associated to different climate change scenarios for the Neotropical region. We can anticipate that increasing range is likely although it will depend locally on the future trends in weather seasonality.

Keywords: Neotropical, leishmaniasis, ecological niche, climate change, seasonal.