Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research Indan Journal of Medical Research
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Year : 2011  |  Volume : 133  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 27-39

Visceral leishmaniasis: Experimental models for drug discovery

Division of Parasitology, Central Drug Research Institute (CSIR), Lucknow, India

Correspondence Address:
Suman Gupta
Scientist 'F', Division of Parasitology, Central Drug Research Institute, Post Box No. 173, Lucknow 226 001
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

PMID: 21321417

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Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) or kala-azar is a chronic protozoan infection in humans associated with significant global morbidity and mortality. The causative agent is a haemoflagellate protozoan Leishmania donovani, an obligate intracellular parasite that resides and multiplies within macrophages of the reticulo-endothelial system. Most of the existing anti-leishmanial drugs have serious side effects that limit their clinical application. As an alternate strategy, vaccination is also under experimental and clinical trials. The in vitro evaluation designed to facilitate rapid testing of a large number of drugs has been focussed on the promastigotes milt little attention on the clinically relevant parasite stage, amastigotes. Screening designed to closely reflect the situation in vivo is currently time consuming, laborious, and expensive, since it requires intracellular amastigotes and animal model. The ability to select transgenic Leishmania expressing reporter proteins, such as the green fluorescent proteins (GFP) or the luciferase opened up new possibilities for the development of drug screening models. Many experimental animal models like rodents, dogs and monkeys have been developed, each with specific features, but none accurately reproduces what happens in humans. Available in vitro and in vivo methodologies for antileishmanial drug screening and their respective advantages and disadvantages are reviewed.

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