Leishmania promastigotes are introduced into the skin by blood-sucking phlebotomine sand flies. In the vertebrate host, promastigotes invade macrophages, transform into amastigotes and multiply intracellularly. Sand fly saliva was shown to enhance the development of cutaneous leishmaniasis lesions by inhibiting some immune functions of the host macrophages. This study demonstrates that sand fly saliva promotes parasite survival and proliferation. First, macrophages gravitated towards increasing concentrations of sand fly saliva in vitro. Secondly, saliva increased the percentage of macrophages that became infected with Leishmania promastigotes and exacerbated the parasite load in these cells. Thus, during natural transmission, saliva probably reduces the exposure of promastigotes to the immune system by attracting macrophages to the parasite inoculation site and by accelerating the entry of promastigotes into macrophages. Saliva may also enhance lesion development by shortening the generation time of dividing intracellular amastigotes.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was supported by grant number 235/99-2 from The Israel Science Foundation founded by the Israeli Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) project on Leishmaniosis in Israel and the West Bank.
- Sand fly saliva