Be cautious if traveling south during reading break

A recent study in the journal Science, found that a parasite and a virus are teaming up to increase its ability to harm humans. [1]

Viral infections appear red in this photo of the parasite Leishmania; the parasites’ nuclei are blue. New evidence published in Science this week suggests that these infections may help Leishmania cause more harm when it infects animal and human hosts. (Credit: Nicolas Fasel, PhD, Univ. of Lausanne in Switzerland)

An infection, known as leishmaniasis, is caused by the parasite Leishmani. This disease is mainly spread by sand fly bites. Symptoms of this infection are, large skin lesions, fever, swelling of the spleen and liver, and, in more serious forms of the disease, disfigurement and death. According to the article, this disease affects over 12 million people worldwide. The article can be found here.

The virus infects hosts by a Trojan Horse technique. “The strategy of the “Trojan horse” as a mechanism of pathogenicity of intracellular microorganisms is, to avoid the immune system and its memory function cleverly, with phagocytosis of infected and apoptotic neutrophils by macrophages, employing the non-danger surface signals of apoptotic cells.” From Wikipedia.

How the virus is increasing the pathogenicity is a fascinating question for researches right now. It may open up new opportunities for finding its cure.

This is the first time I have ever heard of this disease. Although this disease seems very serious, and will never deter me from enjoying the sunny beaches of Central and Southern America.

  1. A. Ives, C. Ronet, F. Prevel, G. Ruzzante, S. Fuertes-Marraco, F. Schutz, H. Zangger, M. Revaz-Breton, L.-F. Lye, S. M. Hickerson, S. M. Beverley, H. Acha-Orbea, P. Launois, N. Fasel, S. Masina. Leishmania RNA Virus Controls the Severity of Mucocutaneous LeishmaniasisScience, 2011; 331 (6018): 775 DOI:10.1126/science.1199326

2 responses to “Be cautious if traveling south during reading break

  1. It’s amazing that viruses and parasite are “teaming up” to better infect hosts. It is pretty scary how well viruses and parasites are adapted to infect humans, I guess joining forces is just the next step.
    Does leishmaniasis have a cure? If so I wonder how this new adaptation of the virus will affect the efficacy of the cure. If not I wonder if maybe this team up could be used to fight the disease. Perhaps the virus and parasite are easier to kill off when they are together? This would definitely be an exciting new area that calls for more research.

  2. Since the leishmaniasis infection affects over 12 million people worldwide, it is surprising that greater awareness of the disease does not exist. Most people are familiar with malaria and how it is spread through mosquitoes. However, many are probably unaware that sand flies can spread a disease that is just as severe. Coincidentally, both diseases have a very similar mode of dispersal. Hence, strategies used to prevent malaria could probably be implemented to prevent leishmaniasis. This includes eradication of sand flies, and more importantly preventing sand fly bites in the first place. Furthermore, more research should be conducted regarding the Trojan horse technique. Doing so will definitely increase awareness and open new possibilities of preventing the spread of leishmaniasis.