Previous exposure to a low infectious dose of Leishmania major exacerbates infection with Leishmania infantum in the susceptible BALB/c mouse

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The geographic distribution of Leishmania major overlaps with several other species of Leishmania. This study seeks to examine what effect previous exposure to L. major has on the outcome of infection with Leishmania infantum, the agent of virulent visceral leishmaniasis. The L. major immune response is well characterized by a strong Th1 response leading to resolution and protection against subsequent re-infection. A contrasting Th2 immune response leads to disseminated disease, while the role Th17 cytokines may play in Leishmania infection is still being explored. The cytokine profile, antibody titer, and parasite burden were evaluated in the susceptible BALB/c mouse after L. infantum infection in either naïve mice or those previously infected with a low/self-healing dose of L. major. Only IL-4 expression in mice previously exposed to L. major was found to be significantly increased over controls, a cytokine with an ambiguous role in L. infantum infection. However, disease exacerbation, with a notably higher parasite burden, was observed in the L. major exposed mice compared to the L. infantum only. Cross-reactive antibodies were seen in both groups of infected mice regardless of their immune history. Studies have shown a role for opsonizing antibodies leading to increased disease in visceral leishmaniasis. We speculate that cross-reactive antibodies may be playing a role in augmenting visceral disease in mice with immunological memory to L. major.


This article was originally published in Parasitology Research. The full-text article from the publisher can be found here.

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Parasitology Research


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