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PLoS Pathog. 2013 Jan;9(1):e1003053. doi: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1003053. Epub 2013 Jan 3.

Determinants for the development of visceral leishmaniasis disease.

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Department of Microbiology and Immunology, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.


Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne neglected tropical disease associated with a spectrum of clinical manifestations, ranging from self-healing cutaneous lesions to fatal visceral infections. Among the most important questions in Leishmania research is why some species like L. donovani infect visceral organs, whereas other species like L. major remain in the skin. The determinants of visceral leishmaniasis are still poorly understood, although genomic, immunologic, and animal models are beginning to provide important insight into this disease. In this review, we discuss the vector, host, and pathogen factors that mediate the development of visceral leishmaniasis. We examine the progression of the parasite from the initial site of sand fly bite to the visceral organs and its ability to survive there. The identification of visceral disease determinants is required to understand disease evolution, to understand visceral organ survival mechanisms, and potentially to develop better interventions for this largely neglected disease.

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