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Am J Trop Med Hyg. 2005 May;72(5):600-5.

Colorimetric assay for screening compounds against Leishmania amastigotes grown in macrophages.

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  • 1Department of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, Washington 98195-7185, USA.


An estimated 12 million persons throughout the world suffer from the protozoan disease leishmaniasis. Current treatments have liabilities including poor activity against some forms of leishmaniasis, toxicity, or the need for parenteral administration. Higher throughput methods to screen chemical compounds are needed to facilitate the search for new antileishmania drugs. In the mammalian host, Leishmania parasites exist as amastigotes that replicate within macrophages. Therefore, an in vitro screening assay using intramacrophage amastigotes most closely represents the natural infection. We have transfected strains of Leishmania major and Leishmania amazonensis with the beta-lactamase gene, which catalyzes a colorimetric reaction with the substrate nitrocephin. The growth of these beta-lactamase-expressing Leishmania within macrophages was quantified in 96-well plates using an optical density plate reader, thus simplifying the methodology for scoring inhibitor assays. This simple and relatively inexpensive colorimetric assay helps improve throughput for screening compounds for antileishmania activity.

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