A team of researchers from the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, lead by Professor Jordi Alberola, has demonstrated the efficacy and safety of a new type of antibiotic, belonging to the family called antimicrobial peptides, for treating canine leishmaniasis, which is a disease that also affects humans. It is the first time that these antibiotics have been demonstrated to be useful against parasitic diseases in real clinical situations. The antibiotic can also improve treatment of other infections, parasitic or not, in that no side effects have been observed and it is very difficult for organisms to develop resistance to them. In addition, it can also have a direct application as a drug for treating co-infection of leishmaniasis with HIV, which 10 % of people with AIDS suffer from. The findings will be published this month (February) in the magazine Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy, which is the most prestigious in its field.
Twelve million people around the world are affected by leishmaniasis; 400 million more are at risk of suffering the disease and every year between 60,000 and 100,000 people die from it. Furthermore, nearly 2 million new cases are reported every year. The different forms of leishmaniasis are caused by unicellular parasites of the Leishmania genus, which are mainly spread by biting insects, similar to mosquitoes, called phlebotoms. Clinical manifestations range from slight cutaneous lesions to visceral complications that may lead to the individual’s death.
Dogs are the main reservoir of the parasite in Spain and in the rest of the Mediterranean basin, the Middle East and South America. Epidemiological studies show that around 70% of dogs in the Mediterranean area are infected. Consequently, eradication of the disease in dogs is considered to be one of the main objectives for improving human health.
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