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New discovery on deadly disease


Researchers at the University of Dundee with colleagues at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine have discovered how the sand-fly spreads one of the world’s most serous tropical diseases - Leishmaniasis.

With reported British deaths due to the sand-fly bite, the researchers have worked out how the Leishmania parasite has manipulated the sand-fly as the perfect transmission system for itself.

This paper, to be published in Nature by Matt Rogers and Paul Bates from the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine and Mike Ferguson and Andrei Nikolaev from the University of Dundee details how the tiny sand-fly can transmit one of the World’s most serious diseases (Leishmaniasis - discovered by a Scotsman Sir William Leishman) that affects millions throughout the tropics and sub-tropics and particularly in India, African and South and Central America.

The work shows that the Leishmania parasite, a microscopic protozoan cell produces a gel like substance that is co-injected with the parasite when the sand-fly bites its victim. This gel greatly enhances the infectivity of the parasite.

The contributions of Andrei Nikolaev and Mike Ferguson, at The University of Dundee, revolve around the chemical analysis and the chemical synthesis of this gel material (a complex phosphoglycan) which allowed Rogers and Bates to test their hypothesis with completely defined material.

Professor Mike Ferguson says: "This is an excellent example of collaborative research - bringing together biology and chemistry to unravel key questions, in this case the mechanism of disease transmission in Leishmaniaisis."

He continues: "Research at the interface between traditional scientific disciplines is the future of scientific discovery. In Dundee, we are constructing a new £17.5 million building called The Centre for Interdisciplinary Research (CIR) due to open July 2005 - to underpin exactly this kind of cross-disciplinary research. Our aim to translate basic science into new and better medicines for diabetes and cancer and to help the less-fortunate in developing countries combat terrible tropical diseases like Leishmaniasis, sleeping sickness and malaria."

Jenny Marra | alfa
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