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Leishmaniasis: Current Treatment and Prospects for New Drugs and Vaccines

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Leishmaniasis is a disease that ranges in severity from skin lesions to serious disfigurement and fatal systemic infection. WHO estimates that the disease results in 2 million new cases a year, threatens 350 million people in 88 countries and that there are 12 million people currently infected worldwide. Current treatment is based on chemotherapy, which relies on a handful of drugs with serious limitations such as high cost, toxicity, difficult route of administration and lack of efficacy in endemic areas. Pentavalent antimonials have been the mainstay of antileishmanial therapy for over 70 years with second line drugs, Amphotericin B and Pentamidine, used in case of antimonial failure. Since the introduction of miltefosine at the beginning of this century, no new antileishmanial compounds have been approved for human treatment. Leishmaniasis is considered one of a few parasitic diseases likely to be controllable by vaccination. However, to date no such vaccine is available despite substantial efforts by many laboratories. The development of a safe, effective and affordable antileishmanial vaccine is a critical global public-health priority. This review outlines the current status of vaccine development and looks at the currently available chemotherapy as well as examples of drugs in development and different approaches to antileishmanial drug discovery and identification of novel antiparasitic compounds.

Keywords: Leishmaniasis; antileishmanial drugs; antileishmanial vaccine; chemotherapy; drug target; immunology

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Infection and Immunity Division, The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, 1G Royal Pde., Parkville 3050, Victoria, Australia.

Publication date: 2009-02-01

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  • Current Medicinal Chemistry covers all the latest and outstanding developments in medicinal chemistry and rational drug design. Each issue contains a series of timely in-depth reviews written by leaders in the field covering a range of the current topics in medicinal chemistry. Current Medicinal Chemistry is an essential journal for every medicinal chemist who wishes to be kept informed and up-to-date with the latest and most important developments.
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