Investigating the treatment of a killer disease spread by sandflies


Leishmaniasis is a neglected tropical disease transmitted by the bite of infected sandflies. After being bitten, humans can experience symptoms ranging from painful skin legions to internal organ failure. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 30,000 people die from the disease each year.

Worldwide, 350 million people are at risk of acquiring leishmaniasis and it is very common in Brazil. Drug treatment used since the 19th century can be toxic, expensive and ineffective. Research conducted by Newton funded scientists indicates that the skin legions patients suffer with are exacerbated by the patient’s robust immune response to the parasite. Building on their initial findings, the researchers are investigating how the immune system responds to the disease and how this can help to tailor potential treatments.

As well as directly helping patients through diagnosis and follow-up, the study may lead to new treatments to counteract leishmaniasis and alleviate the suffering of patients. More broadly, the wider biomedical community and government health agencies will benefit from the collection and distribution of new data about leishmaniasis; extending our collective knowledge and understanding about one of most important neglected diseases in the world.

Longer term, the project will allow for the establishment of new research partnerships with national and international scientists who want to study and fight leishmaniasis, as well supporting research capacity building and technical training for scientists.

The project will provide the base for the development of new expertise in Leishmania immunity and support the emergence of innovative and unexplored treatments.

Professor Daniel de Oliveira Gomes, Federal University of Espírito Santo

This project was shortlisted for the Newton Prize 2019

Characterisation of Leishmania–specific T cells in skin and blood during cutaneous and mucocotaneous leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania brasiliensis

Project leads: Professor Arne Akbar, University College London and Professor Daniel Gomes, Federal University of Espírito Santo

Delivery partners: Medical Research Council, the Brazilian National Council of State Funding Agencies (CONFAP), the Foundation for Support to Research and Innovation of Espírito Santo (FAPES) and the Brazilian National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq)

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