Leishmaniasis and the Immune System

Leishmania is an intracellular parasite that escapes from the humural immune respons by hiding as an amastigote in the lysosomes of the host cell. This has important implications for the immunological response of the host towards the parasite, because:

This conclusion is based on the following observations:

T cells of the CD8 subtype seem to play an important role in controling the infection by Leishmania.

Only the cutaneous form of leishmaniasis is self-curing. This indicates that it is possible to develop a certain degree of immunity against the parasite, resulting in healing of the ulcers. However, the parasites probably never disappear completely from the body, since in situations where the immune system is compromised, such as in AIDS, or is suppressed by cancer chemotherapy or in cases of organ transplantation, leishmaniasis may suddenly reappear.

The fact that the immunological response plays an important role in controling cutaneous leishmaniasis, indicates that vaccination is possible. In fact vaccination using attenuated strains or killed cell preparations has been and is still carried out in the Middle East.

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Last updated: 8 October 1997.

created by :Fred Opperdoes