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Infect Immun. 2014 Jul;82(7):2872-80. doi: 10.1128/IAI.01133-13. Epub 2014 Apr 21.

Chronicity of dermal leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania panamensis is associated with parasite-mediated induction of chemokine gene expression.

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Centro Internacional de Entrenamiento e Investigaciones Médicas, Cali, Colombia.
Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Yale School of Public Health, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Centro Internacional de Entrenamiento e Investigaciones Médicas, Cali, Colombia


Chronic tegumentary leishmaniasis is characterized by a scarcity of parasites in lesions and a heightened inflammatory response. Deregulated and hyperactive inflammation contributes to tissue damage and parasite persistence. The mechanisms by which immune cells are recruited to the lesion and their relationship to clinical outcomes remain elusive. We examined the expression levels of chemokines and their receptors in relation to clinical outcome in dermal leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania (Viannia) panamensis. Primary macrophages from healthy donors were infected with L. panamensis strains isolated from self-healing patients (n = 4) and those presenting chronic disease (n = 5). A consistent pattern of upregulation of neutrophil (cxcl1, cxcl2, cxcl5, and cxcl8/il-8) and monocyte (ccl2, ccl7, ccl8, cxcl3, and cxcl10) chemotactic chemokines and ccr1 and ccr5 receptor genes, evaluated by reverse transcription-quantitative PCR (qRT-PCR), was observed upon infection with strains from patients with chronic dermal leishmaniasis; induction of CXCL5 and CCL8 was corroborated at the protein level. No apparent upregulation was elicited in macrophages infected with strains from self-healing patients. Expression levels of ccl8, cxcl2, cxcl3, and cxcl5 in lesion biopsy specimens from patients with chronic cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) were compared to those in biopsy specimens from Montenegro skin tests of individuals with asymptomatic infection. Increased expression levels of cxcl5 (P < 0.05), ccl8, and cxcl3 were corroborated in chronic CL lesions. Our study revealed a dichotomy in macrophage chemokine gene expression elicited by L. panamensis strains from patients with self-healing disease and those presenting chronic disease, consistent with parasite-mediated hyperactivation of the inflammatory response driving chronicity. The predominant upregulation of neutrophil and monocyte chemoattractants indicates novel mechanisms of sustained inflammatory activation and may provide new therapeutic targets against chronic dermal leishmaniasis.

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