Sugar withdrawal—killing the leishmania parasite

April 16, 2018, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM)
Leishmaniasis is a tropical disease that can cause debilitating ulcers of the skin, mouth and nose. Credit: Kateryna Kon | 123rf

Findings on how parasites cope with stress on a cellular level could aid the development of drugs that combat leishmaniasis, a tropical disease neglected by the pharmaceutical industry.

Drugs that inhibit the ability of the Leishmania parasite to utilize glucose could help treat infection caused by the parasite.

Leishmaniasis is a that can cause debilitating ulcers of the skin, mouth and nose. Its most serious form, , causes fever, low red blood cell count, and enlargement of the liver and spleen. The parasite multiplies in the guts of sandflies, which subsequently transmit it to vertebrate hosts, where it further develops and spreads.

To find a potential treatment for Leishmania infections, researchers from Universiti Putra Malaysia and the University of Glasgow in Scotland analysed molecular changes in the proteins and metabolites of mutant Leishmania placed in a variety of nutrient environments. By studying these relationships in mutants, the team hoped to identify a molecular pathway to target in normal parasites that reduces their virulence.

They found that mutant parasites incapable of processing glucose experienced reduced growth, sensitivity to oxidative stress, and dramatic reduction of virulence. The mutants were able to use , such as amino and fatty acids. Their ability to do so is likely an adaptation to the variable environment in the sandfly gut, where glucose may be abundant or sparse depending on the sandfly's diet. However, these alternative sources were not enough to sustain the parasites.

The researchers hope these findings might be used by others to develop anti-parasitic drugs that inhibit to treat Leishmania infections. There are about 50,000 to 90,000 new cases of visceral leishmaniasis globally every year, according to the World Health Organization. In 2015, 90% of reported leishmaniasis cases came from seven countries: Brazil, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan.

Explore further: Immune reaction to sandfly saliva varies between individuals living in endemic areas

More information: Snezhana Akpunarlieva et al. Integration of proteomics and metabolomics to elucidate metabolic adaptation in Leishmania, Journal of Proteomics (2016). DOI: 10.1016/j.jprot.2016.12.009

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Researchers discover a new gear in life's clock: Vitamin D

November 19, 2018

New research from Portland State University finds vitamin D, or a lack thereof can trigger or suspend embryonic development in a species of fish. The study also provides evidence suggesting the vitamin is critical to the ...

How female hyaenas came to dominate males

November 19, 2018

In most animal societies, members of one sex dominate those of the other. Is this, as widely believed, an inevitable consequence of a disparity in strength and ferocity between males and females? Not necessarily. A new study ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.