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Scientists have taken an important step forward in creating a controlled human infection model to test leishmaniasis vaccines.
The University of York-led study identified and characterized a new strain of Leishmania parasite that will form the basis of a new controlled human infection model for the disease which is transmitted by the bite of sand flies. The group then produced the parasite into the standards required for use in human clinical studies.
The use of controlled human infection models has already proved valuable in accelerating vaccine development for cholera, malaria, typhoid, influenza and other significant infectious diseases. Such models are also being developed as part of the struggle against COVID-19.
This is an important milestone for leishmaniasis vaccine development, bringing us a step closer to having the tools needed to evaluate potentially life-saving or life-changing vaccines in a timely and cost-effective manner. Reducing the financial burden associated with large scale clinical trials is of particular significance, given the limited funding available to develop vaccines for neglected diseases such as leishmaniasis.”
Professor Paul Kaye, Study Author, Hull York Medical School
Approximately one billion people globally are estimated to be at risk of being infected with leishmaniasis in over 98 countries.
The next phase of this research project will seek to recruit healthy volunteers to participate in a clinical trial to find out how the body responds to the parasite and to ascertain how many participants are required in future vaccine trials to determine vaccine efficacy.
Leishmaniasis is characterized by slow-to-heal skin ulcers that may spread to other regions of the body or mucosal surfaces causing lifelong stigma, or to the internal organs resulting in the possibly fatal visceral leishmaniasis. Current drug treatments are inadequate and there are currently no vaccines for human leishmaniasis. There are a reported 1,500,000 new cases and 20,000-30,000 deaths annually.
University of York