Visceral leishmaniasis, which is the most severe form of that group of diseases, affects 500 000 people in the world each year. It is caused by a protozoan, Leishmania infantum, transmitted by sand fly bites. There is no vaccine for this disease, which can rapidly lead to death if no treatment is given. In the most heavily affected areas, the dog population is hit heavily by infection. It acts as parasite reservoir for humans.
Development of a vaccine for dogs could help brake transmission of the disease to humans, by reducing this reservoir. Such prevention treatment has just been tested successfully on dogs by an IRD team in Montpellier, in conjunction with the Rocher veterinary clinic (La Garde, Var) and the biopharmaceutical company Bio Véto Test (La Seyne-Sur-Mer, Var). The first results showed total lasting protection of these animals against the disease, could open the way towards the development of a human vaccine.
Visceral leishmaniasis, which is the most severe form of the leishmaniases, hits an annual total of 500 000 people, mostly in the developing countries. It is caused by the parasite Leishmania infantum. A flagellate protozoan, it uses as vector an insect resembling a midge, the sand fly, colonizing the intestine and then the salivary glands. The female insect feeds on mammals’ blood. It can thus pass the parasite on to humans by a single bite. Once in the blood stream, L. infantum passes into particular cells of the immune system, the macrophages. These eventually burst, releasing the parasites which move on to penetrate other cells. The infected subject suffers bouts of fever, anaemia, enlarged spleen and liver, and weight loss. In the absence of treatment, these clinical signs usually announce a fatal outcome.
Marie Guillaume | EurekAlert!
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