Research ArticleLeishmaniasis

Vaccination with Leishmania Hemoglobin Receptor–Encoding DNA Protects Against Visceral Leishmaniasis

Science Translational Medicine  11 Sep 2013:
Vol. 5, Issue 202, pp. 202ra121
DOI: 10.1126/scitranslmed.3006406

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Leishmania Gets Schooled

Leishmania is one of the most deadly parasites in the world—second only to malaria. The most severe form of leishmaniasis—kala-azar [visceral leishmaniasis (VL)], which occurs when the parasites migrate to the internal organs such as the liver, spleen, and bone marrow—is almost universally fatal if untreated. Current treatments are costly with high toxicity, and drug-resistant parasites are common. Now, Guha et al. report that the hemoglobin receptor (HbR) is a vaccine candidate for VL.

Successful vaccines target molecules critical for pathogen survival. With this in mind, the authors chose to target HbR: Leishmania lacks a complete heme biosynthesis pathway and thus has to acquire it from the external environment. They found that HbR is conserved across various strains of Leishmania, and that antibodies to HbR can be detected in infected patients’ sera. Their HbR-DNA vaccine protected against Leishmania donovani challenge in both mice and hamsters, eliciting both T helper type 1 cytokines and multifunctional T cells. Thus, HbR is a promising candidate for vaccine studies in humans.