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J Exp Med. 2001 Aug 6;194(3):331-42.

Toward a defined anti-Leishmania vaccine targeting vector antigens: characterization of a protective salivary protein.

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Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health, 4 Center Dr., Rm. 4/126, Bethesda, MD 20892, USA.


Leishmania parasites are transmitted to their vertebrate hosts by infected phlebotomine sand fly bites. Sand fly saliva is known to enhance Leishmania infection, while immunity to the saliva protects against infection as determined by coinoculation of parasites with vector salivary gland homogenates (SGHs) or by infected sand fly bites (Kamhawi, S., Y. Belkaid, G. Modi, E. Rowton, and D. Sacks. 2000. Science. 290:1351-1354). We have now characterized nine salivary proteins of Phlebotomus papatasi, the vector of Leishmania major. One of these salivary proteins, extracted from SDS gels and having an apparent mol wt of 15 kD, was able to protect vaccinated mice challenged with parasites plus SGH. A DNA vaccine containing the cDNA for the predominant 15-kD protein (named SP15) provided this same protection. Protection lasted at least 3 mo after immunization. The vaccine produced both intense humoral and delayed-type hypersensitivity (DTH) reactions. B cell-deficient mice immunized with the SP15 plasmid vaccine successfully controlled Leishmania infection when injected with Leishmania plus SGH. These results indicate that DTH response against saliva provides most or all of the protective effects of this vaccine and that salivary gland proteins or their cDNAs are viable vaccine targets against leishmaniasis.

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