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Metastatic disease is a major concern of dermal leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania of the Viannia subgenus. The golden hamster provides an experimental model of systemic dissemination and cutaneous metastasis of Leishmania Viannia. We have exploited this model to examine the expression of parasite virulence in cloned populations derived from a strain of L. guyanensis previously shown to be highly metastatic in the hamster. Metastatic capacity manifested as dissemination throughout the lymphoid organs; cachexia and secondary cutaneous lesions were found to differ among clones, yielding a spectrum of virulence. The metastatic phenotype of clonal populations was stable over 5 sequential passages in hamsters. In addition, the low or high propensity to disseminate and produce cutaneous metastatic lesions was reproduced. Capacity to disseminate from the inoculation site was conserved following subcloning of metastatic clones that had been passaged in culture for several generations; clinical manifestations, cachexia, and cutaneous metastatic lesions were variably expressed. Dissemination of parasites and cachexia were significantly related (P = 0.004). Overall, cachexia was an earlier manifestation of dissemination than cutaneous metastases (P < 0.001). The reproducible expression of virulence phenotypes by discrete populations of Leishmania in the golden hamster provides an experimental model for clinically relevant expression of virulence in human leishmaniasis.
There is no clear understanding of the outcome of reinfection in New World cutaneous leishmaniasis, and its role in the relationship to the development of protection or secondary disease. For this reason, reinfection experiments with homologous (Leishmania panamensis-L. panamensis) and heterologous (L. major-L. panamensis) species of leishmaniae were conducted in the hamster model. The different protocols for primary infections prior to the challenge with L. panamensis were as follows: (a) L. major, single promastigote injection, (b) L. major, three booster infections, (c) L. panamensis, followed by antimonial treatment to achieve subclinical infection, (d) L. panamensis, with active lesions, (by antimonial treatment to achieve subclinical infection, (d) L. panamensis, with active lesions, (e) sham infected, naive controls. Although all reinfected hamsters developed lesions upon challenge, animals with active primary lesions due to L. panamensis, and receiving booster infections of L. major had the most benign secondary lesions (58-91% and 69-76% smaller than controls, respectively, P < 0.05). Subclinically infected animals had intermediate lesions (40-64% smaller than controls, P < 0.05), while hamsters which received a single dose of L. major had no significant improvement over controls. Our results suggested that L. major could elicit a cross protective response to L. panamensis, and that the presence and number of amastigotes persisting after a primary infection may influence the clinical outcome of reinfections.
The emergence of Leishmania less sensitive to pentavalent antimonial agents (SbVs), the report of inhibition of purified topoisomerase I of Leishmania donovani by sodium stibogluconate (Pentostam), and the uncertain mechanism of action of antimonial drugs prompted an evaluation of SbVs in the stabilization of cleavable complexes in promastigotes of Leishmania (Viannia). The effect of camptothecin, an inhibitor of topoisomerase, and additive-free meglumine antimoniate (Glucantime) on the stabilization of cleavable DNA-protein complexes associated with the inhibition of topoisomerase was assessed in the human promonocytic cell line U-937, promastigotes of L. (Viannia) panamensis selected for SbV resistance in vitro, and the corresponding wild-type strain. The stabilization of cleavable complexes and the 50% effective dose (ED50) of SbVs for parasites isolated from patients with relapses were also evaluated. The median ED50 for the wild-type strain was 16. 7 microg of SbV/ml, while that of the line selected for resistance was 209.5 microg of SbV/ml. Treatment with both meglumine antimoniate and sodium stibogluconate (20 to 200 microg of SbV/ml) stabilized DNA-protein complexes in the wild-type strain but not the resistant line. The ED50s of the SbVs for Leishmania strains from patients with relapses was comparable to those for the line selected for in vitro resistance, and DNA-protein complexes were not stabilized by exposure to meglumine antimoniate. Cleavable complexes were observed in all Leishmania strains treated with camptothecin. Camptothecin stabilized cleavable complexes in U-937 cells; SbVs did not. The selective effect of the SbVs on the stabilization of DNA-protein complexes in Leishmania and the loss of this effect in naturally resistant or experimentally derived SbV-resistant Leishmania suggest that topoisomerase may be a target of antimonial drugs.