A New Model of Progressive Visceral Leishmaniasis in Hamsters by Natural Transmission via Bites of Vector Sand Flies

Aslan, Hamide; Dey, Ranadhir; Meneses, Claudio; Castrovinci, Philip; Jeronimo, Selma Maria Bezerra; Oliva, Gætano; Fischer, Laurent; Duncan, Robert C.; Nakhasi, Hira L.; Valenzuela, Jesus G.; Kamhawi, Shaden
April 2013
Journal of Infectious Diseases;Apr2013, Vol. 207 Issue 8, p1328
Academic Journal
Background. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is transmitted by sand flies. Protection of needle-challenged vaccinated mice was abrogated in vector-initiated cutaneous leishmaniasis, highlighting the importance of developing natural transmission models for VL.Methods. We used Lutzomyia longipalpis to transmit Leishmania infantum or Leishmania donovani to hamsters. Vector-initiated infections were monitored and compared with intracardiac infections. Body weights were recorded weekly. Organ parasite loads and parasite pick-up by flies were assessed in sick hamsters.Results. Vector-transmitted L. infantum and L. donovani caused ≥5-fold increase in spleen weight compared with uninfected organs and had geometric mean parasite loads (GMPL) comparable to intracardiac inoculation of 107–108 parasites, although vector-initiated disease progression was slower and weight loss was greater. Only vector-initiated L. infantum infections caused cutaneous lesions at transmission and distal sites. Importantly, 45.6%, 50.0%, and 33.3% of sand flies feeding on ear, mouth, and testicular lesions, respectively, were parasite-positive. Successful transmission was associated with a high mean percent of metacyclics (66%–82%) rather than total GMPL (2.0 × 104–8.0 × 104) per midgut.Conclusions. This model provides an improved platform to study initial immune events at the bite site, parasite tropism, and pathogenesis and to test drugs and vaccines against naturally acquired VL.


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