A group of researchers from the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique (INRS) has published a new study which clarifies the ways in which the Leishmania parasite infects the cells of the human immune system.

This parasite, which causes leishmaniasis, is transmitted to mammals by the bite of a phlebotomine sand fly. The parasite, once inside the mammal’s body, acts through two key molecules to infect cells. These two molecules are the GP63 metalloprotease and the lipophosphoglycan (LPG), also known as virulence factors.

The parasite Achieving the goal by sabotaging the macrophage defense system and thus canceling or otherwise making the immune response less effective. The researchers found that to do this the Leishmania parasite exploits an intracellular transport mechanism, present in the macrophages themselves, to spread virulence factors.

As Albert Descoteaux explains, lead author of the study conducted together with other colleagues, “It is as if there were a train traveling between the different intracellular compartments that parasites use to transport their virulence factors inside the infected cells.”

It is the first time that the Leishmania parasite is shown to transfer its virulence factors from the vacuole to the cytoplasm of the cell.

Alice Stevens

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