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1.  Transcription of Toll-Like Receptors 2, 3, 4 and 9, FoxP3 and Th17 Cytokines in a Susceptible Experimental Model of Canine Leishmania infantum Infection 
PLoS ONE  2015;10(10):e0140325.
Canine leishmaniosis (CanL) due to Leishmania infantum is a chronic zoonotic systemic disease resulting from complex interactions between protozoa and the canine immune system. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) are essential components of the innate immune system and facilitate the early detection of many infections. However, the role of TLRs in CanL remains unknown and information describing TLR transcription during infection is extremely scarce. The aim of this research project was to investigate the impact of L. infantum infection on canine TLR transcription using a susceptible model. The objectives of this study were to evaluate transcription of TLRs 2, 3, 4 and 9 by means of quantitative reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR) in skin, spleen, lymph node and liver in the presence or absence of experimental L. infantum infection in Beagle dogs. These findings were compared with clinical and serological data, parasite densities in infected tissues and transcription of IL-17, IL-22 and FoxP3 in different tissues in non-infected dogs (n = 10), and at six months (n = 24) and 15 months (n = 7) post infection. Results revealed significant down regulation of transcription with disease progression in lymph node samples for TLR3, TLR4, TLR9, IL-17, IL-22 and FoxP3. In spleen samples, significant down regulation of transcription was seen in TLR4 and IL-22 when both infected groups were compared with controls. In liver samples, down regulation of transcription was evident with disease progression for IL-22. In the skin, upregulation was seen only for TLR9 and FoxP3 in the early stages of infection. Subtle changes or down regulation in TLR transcription, Th17 cytokines and FoxP3 are indicative of the silent establishment of infection that Leishmania is renowned for. These observations provide new insights about TLR transcription, Th17 cytokines and Foxp3 in the liver, spleen, lymph node and skin in CanL and highlight possible markers of disease susceptibility in this model.
PMCID: PMC4605763  PMID: 26465878
2.  A Targeted and Adjuvanted Nanocarrier Lowers the Effective Dose of Liposomal Amphotericin B and Enhances Adaptive Immunity in Murine Cutaneous Leishmaniasis 
The Journal of Infectious Diseases  2013;208(11):1914-1922.
Background. Amphotericin B (AmB), the most effective drug against leishmaniasis, has serious toxicity. As Leishmania species are obligate intracellular parasites of antigen presenting cells (APC), an immunopotentiating APC-specific AmB nanocarrier would be ideally suited to reduce the drug dosage and regimen requirements in leishmaniasis treatment. Here, we report a nanocarrier that results in effective treatment shortening of cutaneous leishmaniasis in a mouse model, while also enhancing L. major specific T-cell immune responses in the infected host.
Methods. We used a Pan-DR-binding epitope (PADRE)-derivatized-dendrimer (PDD), complexed with liposomal amphotericin B (LAmB) in an L. major mouse model and analyzed the therapeutic efficacy of low-dose PDD/LAmB vs full dose LAmB.
Results. PDD was shown to escort LAmB to APCs in vivo, enhanced the drug efficacy by 83% and drug APC targeting by 10-fold and significantly reduced parasite burden and toxicity. Fortuitously, the PDD immunopotentiating effect significantly enhanced parasite-specific T-cell responses in immunocompetent infected mice.
Conclusions. PDD reduced the effective dose and toxicity of LAmB and resulted in elicitation of strong parasite specific T-cell responses. A reduced effective therapeutic dose was achieved by selective LAmB delivery to APC, bypassing bystander cells, reducing toxicity and inducing antiparasite immunity.
PMCID: PMC3814840  PMID: 23901083
immunochemotherapy; nanocarrier; adoptive immunity; intracellular; obligate intracellular parasites; leishmaniasis; vaccine
3.  Head-to-Head Comparison of Three Vaccination Strategies Based on DNA and Raw Insect-Derived Recombinant Proteins against Leishmania 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(12):e51181.
Parasitic diseases plague billions of people among the poorest, killing millions annually, and causing additional millions of disability-adjusted life years lost. Leishmaniases affect more than 12 million people, with over 350 million people at risk. There is an urgent need for efficacious and cheap vaccines and treatments against visceral leishmaniasis (VL), its most severe form. Several vaccination strategies have been proposed but to date no head-to-head comparison was undertaken to assess which is the best in a clinical model of the disease. We simultaneously assayed three vaccination strategies against VL in the hamster model, using KMPII, TRYP, LACK, and PAPLE22 vaccine candidate antigens. Four groups of hamsters were immunized using the following approaches: 1) raw extracts of baculovirus-infected Trichoplusia ni larvae expressing individually one of the four recombinant proteins (PROT); 2) naked pVAX1 plasmids carrying the four genes individually (DNA); 3) a heterologous prime-boost (HPB) strategy involving DNA followed by PROT (DNA-PROT); and 4) a Control including empty pVAX1 plasmid followed by raw extract of wild-type baculovirus-infected T. ni larvae. Hamsters were challenged with L. infantum promastigotes and maintained for 20 weeks. While PROT vaccine was not protective, DNA vaccination achieved protection in spleen. Only DNA-PROT vaccination induced significant NO production by macrophages, accompanied by a significant parasitological protection in spleen and blood. Thus, the DNA-PROT strategy elicits strong immune responses and high parasitological protection in the clinical model of VL, better than its corresponding naked DNA or protein versions. Furthermore, we show that naked DNA coupled with raw recombinant proteins produced in insect larvae biofactories –the cheapest way of producing DNA-PROT vaccines– is a practical and cost-effective way for potential “off the shelf” supplying vaccines at very low prices for the protection against leishmaniases, and possibly against other parasitic diseases affecting the poorest of the poor.
PMCID: PMC3517401  PMID: 23236448
4.  Humoral and In Vivo Cellular Immunity against the Raw Insect-Derived Recombinant Leishmania infantum Antigens KMPII, TRYP, LACK, and papLe22 in Dogs from an Endemic Area 
Leishmania infantum causes visceral leishmaniasis, a severe zoonotic and systemic disease that is fatal if left untreated. Identification of the antigens involved in Leishmania-specific protective immune response is a research priority for the development of effective control measures. For this purpose, we evaluated, in 27 dogs from an enzootic zone, specific humoral and cellular immune response by delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) skin test both against total L. infantum antigen and the raw Trichoplusia ni insect-derived kinetoplastid membrane protein-11 (rKMPII), tryparedoxin peroxidase (rTRYP), Leishmania homologue of receptors for activated C kinase (rLACK), and 22-kDa potentially aggravating protein of Leishmania (rpapLe22) antigens from this parasite. rTRYP induced the highest number of positive DTH responses (55% of leishmanin skin test [LST]-positive dogs), showing that TRYP antigen is an important T cell immunogen, and it could be a promising vaccine candidate against this disease. When TRYP-DTH and KMPII-DTH tests were evaluated in parallel, 82% of LST-positive dogs were detected, suggesting that both antigens could be considered as components of a standardized DTH immunodiagnostic tool for dogs.
PMCID: PMC2990046  PMID: 21118936
5.  Dynamics and Predictive Potential of Antibodies against Insect-Derived Recombinant Leishmania infantum Proteins during Chemotherapy of Naturally Infected Dogs 
A predictive marker for the success treatment of canine leishmaniasis is required for the application of a more rational therapy protocol, which must improve the probability of cure and reduce Leishmania resistance to drugs. We investigated the dynamics and predictive value of antibodies against insect-derived recombinant L. infantum proteins rKMPII and rTRYP by using an enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with retrospective serum samples from 36 dogs during treatment of canine leishmaniasis. In the entire group of dogs, concentrations of antibodies against rKMPII and rTRYP significantly decreased earlier than concentrations of antibodies against crude total Leishmania antigen (one versus six months), which suggested that the dynamics of antibodies against recombinant proteins may be useful for assessing clinical improvement after treatment. Interestingly, decreases in antibody concentrations against rKMPII occurred earlier in disease-free dogs than in dogs that remain clinically ill one year after beginning of treatment, which suggested that these antibodies may be useful for predicting disease-free survival one year after the beginning of therapy against canine leishmaniasis.
PMCID: PMC2861386  PMID: 20439957
6.  Leishmania Infection: Laboratory Diagnosing in the Absence of a “Gold Standard” 
There is no gold standard for diagnosing leishmaniases. Our aim was to assess the operative validity of tests used in detecting Leishmania infection using samples from experimental infections, a reliable equivalent to the classic definition of gold standard. Without statistical differences, the highest sensitivity was achieved by protein A (ProtA), immunoglobulin (Ig)G2, indirect fluorescenece antibody test (IFAT), lymphocyte proliferation assay, quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction of bone marrow (qPCR-BM), qPCR-Blood, and IgG; and the highest specificity by IgG1, IgM, IgA, qPCR-Blood, IgG, IgG2, and qPCR-BM. Maximum positive predictive value was obtained simultaneously by IgG2, qPCR-Blood, and IgG; and maximum negative predictive value by qPCR-BM. Best positive and negative likelihood ratios were obtained by IgG2. The test having the greatest, statistically significant, area under the receiver operating characteristics curve was IgG2 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Thus, according to the gold standard used, IFAT and qPCR are far from fulfilling the requirements to be considered gold standards, and the test showing the highest potential to detect Leishmania infection is Leishmania-specific ELISA IgG2.
PMCID: PMC2813166  PMID: 20134001
7.  Prevalence of Leishmania infantum Infection in Dogs Living in an Area of Canine Leishmaniasis Endemicity Using PCR on Several Tissues and Serology 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2001;39(2):560-563.
We studied and compared the prevalence of Leishmania infection and the seroprevalence and the prevalence of canine leishmaniasis in an area where canine leishmaniasis is endemic. One hundred dogs living on the island of Mallorca (Spain) were studied. In this study, we clinically examined each dog for the presence of symptoms compatible with leishmaniasis, determined the titer of anti-Leishmania antibodies, and investigated the presence of Leishmania DNA by PCR in skin, conjunctiva, and bone marrow samples of each dog. The prevalence of the disease and the seroprevalence were 13 and 26%, respectively. In 63% of the dogs, Leishmania DNA could be detected by PCR in at least one of the tissues studied. The results of positive PCR in the bone marrow, the conjunctiva, and the skin were 17.8, 32, and 51%, respectively. The prevalence of the infection, 67%, was calculated using all animals that were seropositive and/or positive by PCR with any tissue. The results showed that the majority of dogs living in an area where canine leishmaniasis is endemic are infected by Leishmania and that the prevalence of infection is much greater than the prevalence of overt Leishmania-related disease.
PMCID: PMC87775  PMID: 11158106

Results 1-7 (7)