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J Immunol. 2008 Mar 15;180(6):4090-7.

IL-10 and TGF-beta control the establishment of persistent and transmissible infections produced by Leishmania tropica in C57BL/6 mice.

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  • 1Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-0425, USA.


Leishmania tropica is the causative agent of Old World anthroponotic cutaneous leishmaniasis, which is characterized by lesions that take an extended period of time to heal, often resulting in disfiguring scars, and are more refractory to treatment than leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania major. Immunologic studies involving experimental animal models of L. tropica infection are virtually nonexistent. In the current study, infectious-stage L. tropica were used to establish dermal infections in C57BL/6 and BALB/c mice. In both strains, the lesions were slow to develop and showed minimal pathology. They nonetheless contained a stable number of between 10(4) and 10(5) parasites for over 1 year, which were efficiently picked up by a natural sand fly vector, Phlebotomus sergenti. Control of parasite growth depended on the development of a Th1 response, as C57BL/6 mice genetically deficient in Th1 cytokines and BALB/c mice treated with Abs to IFN-gamma harbored significantly more parasites. By contrast, IL-10-deficient mice harbored significantly fewer parasites throughout the infection. To further study the immunologic mechanisms that may prevent efficient clearance of the parasites, IL-10 and TGF-beta signaling were abrogated during the chronic phase of infection in wild-type C57BL/6 mice. Distinct from chronic L. major infection, IL-10 blockade alone had no effect on L. tropica, but required simultaneous treatment with anti-TGF-beta Abs to promote efficient parasite clearance from the infection site. Thus, chronic infection with L. tropica appears to be established via multiple suppressive factors, which together maintain the host as a long-term reservoir of infection for vector sand flies.

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