What is the role of vaccination in the prevention of leishmaniasis?

Updated: Feb 18, 2020
  • Author: Craig G Stark, MD, FACP, FFTM, RCPS(Glasg), FISTM; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
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In some areas of the world, children are superficially inoculated with infected material in concealed areas to induce infection, to promote immunity, and to prevent facial scarring.

Some studies have shown protection against cutaneous leishmaniasis with vaccination of killed Leishmania promastigotes and live bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG). However, this does not seem to be protective against visceral leishmaniasis.

Attempts to create a viable human vaccine along similar lines have been met with difficulty and have resulted in persistent cutaneous lesions. In May 2005, French researchers from the IRD Montpellier Research Centre successfully developed a novel vaccine against visceral leishmaniasis in dogs. [56] Using antigen proteins excreted by the parasite at the 100- and 200-mcg dose, 100% of the dogs (9 of 9) showed immunity over a period of 2 years after infection with L infantum.

Immunity appears to be related to activation of the Th1 lymphocytes, allowing macrophages to produce nitric oxide and to clear the Leishmania parasites. Researchers postulate that, by reducing the disease burden in dogs, the transmission cycle can be interrupted, indirectly reducing human infections. This new approach is currently being evaluated for incorporation into human vaccines.

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