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General Characters of Leishmania donovani | Labeled Diagram

In this article, we will learn the general characters of Leishmania donovani, systematic position, habit and habitat, distribution, food and feeding, reproduction, and economic importance.

Systematic Position

Domain: Eukaryota
Phylum: Euglenozoa
Class: Kinetoplastea
Order: Trypanosomatida
Genus: Leishmania
Leishmania donovani


General Characters of Leishmania donovani

Fig: Labeled diagram of Leishmania donovani

Habit, Habitat and Distribution

  1. The natural habitat of Leishmania donovani is within the host and the sandfly vector.
  2. The organism is transmitted to humans through the bite of infected sandflies.
  3. In the host, the amastigote stage of the organism is found within macrophages.
  4. In the sandfly vector, the promastigote stage of the organism is found in the gut.
  5. Its distribution is closely linked to the distribution of its sandfly vector. The organism is found in regions where the sandfly vector is present and where the environmental conditions are favorable for the survival and transmission of the organism. These regions include tropical and subtropical areas of the world, particularly in India, China, Africa, Russia, South Europe, and South America.

General Characters of Leishmania donovani

  1. Leishmania donovani is a parasitic protozoan that belongs to the genus Leishmania, which is part of the family Trypanosomatidae.
  2. It is the causative agent of visceral leishmaniasis, also known as kala-azar, in humans and animals.
  3. It is a unicellular organism that is elongated in shape and measures approximately 20-30 micrometers in length.
  4. It has a characteristic kinetoplast, a large mitochondrion located at the base of the flagellum.
  5. The kinetoplast is a unique feature of this genus and is used as a diagnostic marker for Leishmania species.
  6. The flagellum is a whip-like structure that helps the organism to move.
  7. It has a complex cytoskeleton, composed of microtubules, microfilaments, and intermediate filaments.
  8. The organism has a unique life cycle, which involves two stages: the promastigote stage, which is found in the sandfly vector, and the amastigote stage, which is found in the host’s macrophages.
  9. The promastigote stage is motile and has a flagellum, while the amastigote stage is non-motile and lacks a flagellum.
  10. The promastigote stage is responsible for the organism’s transmission, while the amastigote stage is responsible for the pathological symptoms of the disease.
  11. Once inside the host, the organism is taken up by macrophages, which are specialized immune cells that ingest and digest foreign particles. Inside the macrophages, the promastigotes transform into the amastigote stage.
  12. The amastigotes multiply within the macrophages and cause damage to the host’s organs, leading to the pathological symptoms of the disease.

Food and Feeding

  1. Leishmania donovani lacks a mouth. Nourishment is obtained saprozoically through the body surface.
  2. Inside the host’s body, the parasite makes its way to the macrophages, where it feeds on the host cell’s nutrients and uses its machinery to replicate and spread throughout the body.

Reproduction of Leishmania donovani

  1. Sexual reproduction is unknown in Leishmania donovani.
  2. It is a parasitic protozoan that reproduces through a process called longitudinal binary fission which is a type of asexual reproduction.
  3. This process involves the replication of the parasite’s genetic material and the subsequent division of the cell into two daughter cells.
  4. The process of binary fission occurs continuously within the host’s macrophages, allowing the parasite to rapidly multiply and establish chronic infections.
  5. The first step in the reproduction of Leishmania donovani is the replication of the parasite’s DNA.
  6. Once the genetic material is replicated, the cell begins to divide longitudinally and thus forms two daughter parasites.

Economic Importance of Leishmania donovani

  1. No positive economic importance is found for Leishmania donovani. Only negative economic importances are found.
  2. It is a parasitic protozoan that causes visceral leishmaniasis, a debilitating and potentially fatal disease.
  3. The disease primarily affects people living in poverty in developing countries, particularly in parts of Africa, Asia, and South America.
  4. The economic impact of visceral leishmaniasis is significant, as it can lead to significant morbidity and mortality, resulting in loss of productivity and increased healthcare costs.
  5. Infected individuals may require prolonged treatment and hospitalization, which can be costly, particularly in resource-limited settings.
  6. Additionally, the disease can lead to long-term disability, which can further impact an individual’s ability to work and support their family.
  7. Visceral leishmaniasis also has an impact on the agricultural sector, as it can lead to the loss of livestock, which can be a significant source of income for many households.
  8. Additionally, the disease can also lead to decreased productivity in agriculture, as infected individuals may not be able to work in the fields.
  9. The control and elimination of visceral leishmaniasis are important for reducing the economic burden of the disease.
  10. Investing in the control and elimination of visceral leishmaniasis can have significant economic benefits, both for affected individuals and communities, as well as for the broader economy.


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