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Microbiol Rev. Dec 1995; 59(4): 533–547.
PMCID: PMC239385

Role of nitric oxide in parasitic infections.


Nitric oxide is produced by a number of different cell types in response to cytokine stimulation and thus has been found to play a role in immunologically mediated protection against a growing list of protozoan and helminth parasites in vitro and in animal models. The biochemical basis of its effects on the parasite targets appears to involve primarily inactivation of enzymes crucial to energy metabolism and growth, although it has other biologic activities as well. NO is produced not only by macrophages and macrophage-like cells commonly associated with the effector arm of cell-mediated immune reactivity but also by cells commonly considered to lie outside the immunologic network, such as hepatocytes and endothelial cells, which are intimately involved in the life cycle of a number of parasites. NO production is stimulated by gamma interferon in combination with tumor necrosis factor alpha or other secondary activation signals and is regulated by a number of cytokines (especially interleukin-4, interleukin-10, and transforming growth factor beta) and other mediators, as well as through its own inherent inhibitory activity. The potential for design of prevention and/or intervention approaches against parasitic infection (e.g., vaccination or combination chemo- and immunotherapy strategies) on the basis of induction of cell-mediated immunity and NO production appears to be great, but the possible pathogenic consequences of overproduction of NO must be taken into account. Moreover, more research on the role and regulation of NO in human parasitic infection is needed before its possible clinical relevance can be determined.

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Selected References

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