Major discovery opens door to leishmania treatment

October 6, 2009

Leishmania is a deadly parasitic disease that affects over 12 million people worldwide, with more than 2 million new cases reported every year. Until recently, scientists were unsure exactly how the parasite survives inside human cells. That mystery has now been solved according to a new study published in Science Signaling by a team led by Dr. Martin Olivier - a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University. It is hoped the new study will lead to the development of the first prophylactic treatment for leishmania.

Leishmania is typically a sub-tropical and tropical infectious disease transmitted through the bite of female phlebotomine sandflies. The parasites enter the bloodstream and are ingested by macrophage - white blood cells - where they block immune function and multiply, spreading to other tissues in the body. Leishmania can occur in cutaneous forms, which are generally curable, as well as in a more dangerous - and potentially fatal - visceral form.

The researchers discovered that a metalloprotease - a molecule called GP63 - found on the surface of the parasite, plays a role in neutralizing the macrophage's defences. "Our results demonstrate the mechanism through which the GP63 protease alters the function of the macrophages by activating its own negative regulatory mechanisms," says Dr. Olivier. "The infected cells act 'frozen', which hinders the body's innate inflammatory immune response and leads to infection."

The work is significant in that it is the first study that explains how the leishmania parasite blocks the of macrophages. "Our research indicates that the GP63 protease is the target of choice for innovative future treatments, in terms of prevention," says Dr. Olivier.

The GP63 protease directly activates other key molecules that negatively regulate the function of the . "Better control over the activation of these host molecules could be one promising approach to treating leishmania as well as other infectious diseases that use similar infection strategies," he added.

Source: McGill University (news : web)

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Natural compound reduces signs of aging in healthy mice

October 27, 2016

Much of human health hinges on how well the body manufactures and uses energy. For reasons that remain unclear, cells' ability to produce energy declines with age, prompting scientists to suspect that the steady loss of efficiency ...

A metabolic switch to turn off obesity

October 27, 2016

You've tried all the diets. No matter: you've still regained the weight you lost, even though you ate well and you exercised regularly! This may be due to a particular enzyme in the brain: the alpha/beta hydrolase domain-6 ...

Mitochondria control stem cell fate

October 27, 2016

What happens in intestinal epithelial cells during a chronic illness? Basic research conducted at the Chair of Nutrition and Immunology at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) addressed this question by generating a new ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

not rated yet Oct 07, 2009
"Leishmania is a deadly parasitic disease that affects over 12 million people worldwide, with more than 2 million new cases reported every year."

HUH? So in 10 yrs there could be up to (12 + 20 =) 32 million cases, w/o any treatment. Or the mortality rate must be very high.

Nice work, but the statistics of the disease needs clarification.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.