Leishmania braziliensis is the main causative agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Brazil. Protection against infection is related to development of Th1 responses, but the mechanisms that mediate susceptibility are still poorly understood. Murine models have been the most important tools in understanding the immunopathogenesis of L. major infection and have shown that Th2 responses favor parasite survival. In contrast, L. braziliensis–infected mice develop strong Th1 responses and easily resolve the infection, thus making the study of factors affecting susceptibility to this parasite difficult.
Here, we describe an experimental model for the evaluation of the mechanisms mediating susceptibility to L. braziliensis infection. BALB/c mice were inoculated with stationary phase promastigotes of L. braziliensis, isolates LTCP393(R) and LTCP15171(S), which are resistant and susceptible to antimony and nitric oxide (NO), respectively. Mice inoculated with LTCP393(R) presented larger lesions that healed more slowly and contained higher parasite loads than lesions caused by LTCP15171(S). Inflammatory infiltrates in the lesions and production of IFN-γ, TNF-α, IL-10 and TGF-β were similar in mice inoculated with either isolate, indicating that these factors did not contribute to the different disease manifestations observed. In contrast, IL-4 production was strongly increased in LTCP393(R)-inoculated animals and also arginase I (Arg I) expression. Moreover, anti-IL-4 monoclonal antibody (mAb) treatment resulted in decreased lesion thickness and parasite burden in animals inoculated with LTCP393(R), but not in those inoculated with LTCP15171(S).
We conclude that the ability of L. braziliensis isolates to induce Th2 responses affects the susceptibility to infection with these isolates and contributes to the increased virulence and severity of disease associated with them. Since these data reflect what happens in human infection, this model could be useful to study the pathogenesis of the L. braziliensis infection, as well as to design new strategies of therapeutic intervention.
Leishmaniasis is a neglected disease that affects more than 12 million people worldwide. In Brazil, the cutaneous disease is more prevalent with about 28,000 new cases reported each year, and L. braziliensis is the main causative agent. The interesting data about the infection with this parasite is the wide variety of clinical manifestations that ranges from single ulcerated lesions to mucocutaneous and disseminated disease. However, experimental models to study the infection with this parasite are difficult to develop due to high resistance of most mouse strains to the infection, and the mechanisms underlying the distinct manifestations remain poorly understood. Here, the authors use a mouse experimental model of infection with different L. braziliensis isolates, known to induce diseases with distinct severity in the human hosts, to elucidate immune mechanisms that may be involved in the different manifestations. They showed that distinct parasite isolates may modulate host response, and increased IL-4 production and Arg I expression was related to more severe disease, resulting in longer length of disease with larger lesions and reduced parasite clearance. These findings may be useful in the identification of immunological targets to control L. braziliensis infection and potential clinical markers of disease progression.