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Infect Immun. 1997 Aug;65(8):3225-30.

Successful therapy of chronic, nonhealing murine cutaneous leishmaniasis with sodium stibogluconate and gamma interferon depends on continued interleukin-12 production.

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  • 1Department of Pathobiology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia 19104, USA.


Treatment of nonhealing forms of human leishmaniasis with antimonial drugs in combination with gamma interferon (IFN-gamma) may promote healing more effectively than conventional drug therapy. Although the natures of immune responses in patients prior to treatment are often unclear, it is generally assumed that such therapy also promotes a switch from a Th2-type response to a dominant Th1-type response. We have examined the efficacy of IFN-gamma therapy, in combination with drug therapy, to promote healing and a Th2-to-Th1 switch in highly susceptible BALB/c mice infected with Leishmania major. Short-term treatment with the antileishmanial drug sodium stibogluconate failed to significantly alter the course of disease or the immune response when it was given during the third and fourth weeks of infection. IFN-gamma therapy, administered over the same time period, also failed to induce cure or a Th1 dominant response. In contrast, mice treated with a combination of drug and IFN-gamma therapy resolved their infections and developed Th1-type responses. However, administration of an antibody to interleukin 12 (IL-12) reversed the therapeutic effects of therapy with drug plus IFN-gamma, suggesting that IFN-gamma promotes cure through an IL-12-dependent mechanism. Analysis of mRNA levels within parasitized lesions suggests that drug treatment plus IFN-gamma treatment, in addition to reducing parasite numbers, results in reduced levels of IL-4, IL-10, and transforming growth factor beta transcripts but increased levels of transcripts of the p40 chain of IL-12 and inducible nitric oxide synthase, which catalyzes the production of nitric oxide. Together, these results suggest that such immunotherapy may promote the development of a protective Th1-type response in susceptible mice by a mechanism which involves both suppression of regulatory cytokines and enhancement of IL-12 and nitric oxide production.

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