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Soldiers in Iraq coming down with parasitic disease

From Miami, Fla., at a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene

Hundreds of soldiers serving in Iraq and Afghanistan have contracted leishmaniasis, a parasite-borne infection spread by sand flies, according to military physicians.

Symptoms usually are limited to skin ulcers, but two soldiers serving in each conflict have come down with a potentially lethal form of leishmaniasis that attacks internal organs, reports Otha Myles of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, D.C. This form of the disease is marked by sporadic weight loss, abdominal pain, and fever.

Definite diagnoses took several months and required blood tests, liver biopsies, and bone marrow samplings. With standard treatment using an antimony-based drug, all four have recovered.

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