BBC wildlife presenter Charlie Hamilton James contracts a tropical flesh eating disease

Presenter and husband to Philippa Forrester contracted leishmaniasis in Peru last month while filming a new series for BBC2

Wildlife presenter Charlie Hamilton James has revealed that he’s being treated for a tropical flesh eating disease which he contracted while on assignment.


Hamilton James, who’s married to fellow TV presenter Philippa Forrester, contracted leishmaniasis in Peru last month while filming a new series for BBC2 called I Bought a Rainforest.

The nasty, sometimes deadly, infection has already destroyed a large area of flesh on one leg and is also attacking his arm. He started treatment yesterday (Monday) at a Bristol hospital and will continue to receive powerful intravenous drugs every day for the next month.

“It started off as a skin sore but has grown very quickly,” said Hamilton James. “The pain is intense. It feels like I’m being burned with a cigar. It causes major problems if you don’t get it treated.”

The disease is passed on through the bites of sand flies, which themselves become carriers after sucking the blood of other infected animals. Ben Fogle contracted the same disease in 2009, also while in Peru.

The most extreme form of the disease – which Hamilton James doesn’t have – is called visceral leishmaniasis. It attacks internal organs and is often fatal.

The cameraman, who shot to fame with his acclaimed films My Halcyon River and Wild Wood, fell prey to the disease while making a three-part series for BBC2 which sees him purchase a 49-hectare parcel of land in the Peruvian jungle. “I bought the land in an attempt to stop illegal logging, but I had no idea what I was letting myself in for. The jeopardy is all real.”


I Bought a Rainforest is due to be aired in the Spring.