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The most widespread form of the leishmaniases is cutaneous leishmaniasis (oriental sore), which initially causes a swelling, followed by a chronic skin ulcer. Leishmaniae allow themselves to be taken up by immune cells, so-called macrophages, but in many humans resist digestion and killing by the macrophages. A rationale approach to treatment is, therefore, to activate and enable macrophages to digest the parasites.
We have purified a substance from the cell membrane of amoebae (Entamoeba histolytica), which can activate macrophages like no other known compound. Using both infected macrophages in the test tube and a mouse model for human cutaneous leishmaniasis, we found that the amoeba compound drastically reduced the numbers of leishmaniae. Certain synthetic fragments of the compound had the same effect. Future studies will show whether these fragments are also active against other leishmania species and other pathogens, which likewise inhabit macrophages, such as, for instance, tubercle bacilli.
Siew Ling Choy, Hannah Bernin, Eugenia Bifeld, Sarah Corinna Lender, Melina Mühlenpfordt, Jill Noll, Julia Eick, Claudia Marggra ff , Hanno Niss, Joachim Clos, Egbert Tannich, Hanna Lotter and external cooperation partners (see publication)