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Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jun 3;105(22):7845-50. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0712153105. Epub 2008 May 28.

Immunity to a salivary protein of a sand fly vector protects against the fatal outcome of visceral leishmaniasis in a hamster model.

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  • 1Centro de Pesquisas Gonçalo Moniz, Fundação Oswaldo Cruz, CEP 40296-710 Salvador, Brazil.


Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is a fatal disease for humans, and no vaccine is currently available. Sand fly salivary proteins have been associated with protection against cutaneous leishmaniasis. To test whether vector salivary proteins can protect against VL, a hamster model was developed involving intradermal inoculation in the ears of 100,000 Leishmania infantum chagasi parasites together with Lutzomyia longipalpis saliva to mimic natural transmission by sand flies. Hamsters developed classical signs of VL rapidly, culminating in a fatal outcome 5-6 months postinfection. Saliva had no effect on the course of infection in this model. Immunization with 16 DNA plasmids coding for salivary proteins of Lu. longipalpis resulted in the identification of LJM19, a novel 11-kDa protein, that protected hamsters against the fatal outcome of VL. LJM19-immunized hamsters maintained a low parasite load that correlated with an overall high IFN-gamma/TGF-beta ratio and inducible NOS expression in the spleen and liver up to 5 months postinfection. Importantly, a delayed-type hypersensitivity response with high expression of IFN-gamma was also noted in the skin of LJM19-immunized hamsters 48 h after exposure to uninfected sand fly bites. Induction of IFN-gamma at the site of bite could partly explain the protection observed in the viscera of LJM19-immunized hamsters through direct parasite killing and/or priming of anti-Leishmania immunity. We have shown that immunity to a defined salivary protein (LJM19) confers powerful protection against the fatal outcome of a parasitic disease, which reinforces the concept of using components of arthropod saliva in vaccine strategies against vector-borne diseases.

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