Gorgas Institute and University of Panama lead international study on Leishmania virus

Dr. Kadir González, corresponding author, scientist at ICGES and the Department of Human Microbiology at the University of Panama (UP), explained the scope of this collaborative research

By: Violeta Villar Liste

What is the definition of Leishmaniavirus (LRV)? “a double-stranded RNA virus of the Totiviridae family” that has the ability to infect the Leishmania parasite and cause a worse prognosis of the disease

The study of the virus leishmania o Leishmaniavirus (LRV) It is of great interest in the scientific world because this virus can affect the clinical evolution of patients with leishmaniasis, when presenting severe clinical forms of the disease or treatment failures.

An advance in this knowledge is represented by the study Epidemiology and Genetic Characterization of Leishmania RNA Virus in Leishmania (Viannia) spp. Isolates fromCutaneous Leishmaniasis Endemic Areas in Panama (Epidemiology and genetic characterization of the RNA virus of Leishmania in Leishmania isolates ( Viannia ) spp. from endemic areas of cutaneous leishmaniasis in Panama) collaborative work that includes the participation of United States and Brazil, under the leadership of Panama (See link: https://www.mdpi.com/2076-2607/12/7/1317)

For Panama, Researchers from the Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies (ICGES) and the Panama university (UP).

He Dr. Kadir González, corresponding author, scientist at ICGES and the Department of Human Microbiology of the Panama university (UP), explained the scope of this international collaborative research that reflects the interest of research groups to expand knowledge of this virus.

Dr. Kadir González during a recent presentation at the International Medical Conference held with the support of ICGES | Photo: Archive

“This type of study involving several countries is important because it provides varied and innovative research approaches, maximizes the efficiency of financial and technological resources, addresses problems that transcend national borders, strengthens international relations and contributes to equitable and sustainable development,” he said.

Authors and co-authors: Armando Assair Bonilla1,†,Vanessa Pineda2,†,Jose Eduardo Calzada2,3,Azael Saldana4,Marcia Dalastra Laurenti5Stephanie Goya6Leyda Abrego7,8,*and Kadir Gonzalez2,9,*

1 Master’s Program in Parasitological Sciences, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Exact Sciences and Technology, Panama university, Panama 3366, Panama

2 Department of Parasitology Research, Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health Studies, Panama 0816-02593, Panama

3 Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Panama university, Panama 3366, Panama

4 Center for Research and Diagnosis of Parasitic Diseases (CIDEP), Faculty of Medicine, Panama universityPanama 3366, Panama

5 Laboratory of Pathology of Infectious Diseases, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao PauloSao Paulo 05508-270, SP, Brazil

6 Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, EE. USA

7 Department of Research in Virology and Biotechnology, Gorgas Memorial Institute for Health StudiesPanama 0816-02593, Panama

8 Department of Microbiology and Parasitology, Faculty of Natural Sciences, Exact Sciences and Technology, Panama universityPanama 3366, Panama

9 Department of Human Microbiology, Faculty of Medicine, Panama universityPanama 3366, Panama

*Authors to whom correspondence should be addressed

These authors contributed equally to this work

What is Leishmaniavirus (LRV)?

The leishmaniasis It is a neglected infectious disease. It is endemic to 98 countries, including Panama, and every 40 seconds a new infection occurs. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million cases worldwide: Leishmaniasis in Panama, treatment update and findings at the Gorgas Institute

It is the parasite Leishmania the causal agent of the leishmaniasis and is transmitted by bite of chitras of the genre Lutzomyia.

He Leishmaniavirus (LRV) is defined as “a double-stranded RNA virus of the family Totiviridae” that has the ability to infect the parasite Leishmania (not to the person directly).

He Dr. Kadir Gonzalez reiterates that the study of the virus Leishmania In patients with leishmaniasis it is of great importance, since it has been associated with greater severity of the disease, causing stronger inflammatory responses.

“It has been described that the virus can interfere with the ability of the immune system to effectively control the parasitic infection, which can lead to increased persistence and dissemination of the disease. It has also been associated with treatment failures and reactivation of lesions in patients with leishmaniasis. The LRV plays a crucial role in understanding pathogenesis, epidemiologyand treatment of the leishmaniasis, making it an important focus of research to improve health outcomes in affected regions.”

-When was LRV-1 discovered and in which countries is it predominant?

The first report of the existence of LRV in the parasite Leishmania It occurred in 1988 in an isolate of L. (V.) guyanensis called LR1. To date it has been reported in several species of the parasite Leishmania of the subgenre Viannia present in the American continent in countries such as Suriname, French Guiana, Bolivia, Costa Rica, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and recently in Panama.

Relevant findings

The researchers studied “100 isolates de Leishmania (Viannia) of patients with cutaneous leishmaniasis collected from different endemic areas in Panama from 2016 to 2022.”

According to the summary of the publication, they identified L. (V.) panamensis , L. (V.) guyanensis hybrid L. (V.) braziliensis/guyanensis y L. (V.) panamensis sp.1. (genetic variant)”.

“LRV-1 was detected by RT-PCR in 9% of L. (Viannia) isolates (eight cases in L. (V.) panamensis and one in L. (V.) guyanensis). Phylogenetic analysis based on sequencing data classified all LRV-1 isolates within genotype A, suggesting that the phylogenetic proximity of LRV is closely aligned with the geographic distribution or with the phylogenetic proximity of the Leishmania host in the case of L. (V.) panamensis and L. (V.) guyanensis in Panama.”

In relation to the characteristics of the Panamanian LRV-1 Compared to other LRV-1s found in the region, the Dr. González He explained that “the LRV-1 present in Panama was found to belong to the genotype A, both in the species of L. (V.) panamensis (main causal agent of leishmaniasis in Panama) and L. (V.) guyanensissimilar to those circulating in South America in the species of L. (V.) guyanensis«.

Are there differences when the Panamanian LRV-1 circulates in L. (V.) panamensis and when he does it in L. (V.) guyanensisWhy is it not present in the other types of L. (Viannia) circulating in the country?

-So far, no differences have been found between the virus in both species. Panama. It has not been found in other circulating species such as L. (V.) braziliensis o L. (V.) naiffiThese species are less common in the Panamanian patientstherefore the probability of finding the virus in these species is lower. Further studies must be carried out to search for the presence of the virus in these species of Leishmania.

What does it mean to belong to genotype A?

-He LRV-1 described in Panama belongs to the genotype A. LRVs are divided into 4 species: LRV-1, LRV-2, LRV-3 and LRV-4. In Panama we have the presence of LRV-1 that infects parasites of the subgenus Viannia which are present in the country.

LRV-1 is divided into 8 genotypes ranging from A to H. This classification is associated with the species of the parasite. Leishmania that infects. Genotype A has been associated with LRV-1 that infect the parasite Leishmania (V.) guyanensisAn interesting point of this study is the description of genotype A in the species of L. (V.) panamensis y L. (V.) guyanensis in Panama. This finding can be explained by the phylogenetic proximity that both species of the parasite have, allowing the genotype A virus to infect both species.

What are the characteristics or similarities of the provinces of Panama, Panama Oeste and Coclé that determine the concentration of the virus in these areas and, furthermore, near the Panama Canal?

-All three are areas endemic to cases of leishmaniasis. Added to this are the provinces of Bocas del Toro and Colon. The reporting of cases in these areas goes hand in hand with the presence of the vector, the presence of reservoirs, favorable environmental conditions for the vector and reservoirs, and the circulation of the parasite. It is likely that there are cases of leishmaniasis with the presence of the virus in other provinces. According to the data obtained, it seems that the virus is widely distributed throughout the national territory.

Regarding the type of patient (male, between 27 and 62 years old, with an average of 42 with a range of 1 to 11 lesions, distributed mainly in arms (4/9, 44.44%) and legs (4/9, 44.44%)…) is it associated with the occupation of the patients, residence in the province or other conditions? The study makes special reference to the migratory passage.

-The epidemiological description of patients is associated with the risk factors for leishmaniasis such as living or traveling to endemic areas, performing outdoor work in these endemic areas where you are exposed to the vector, the type of parasite circulating in the area and the host’s immune response.

Research in development

-“LRV-1 is an important component in the dynamics of infection by parasites of the genus Leishmania, influencing parasite virulence and the immune response of the vertebrate host.” However, we understand that also does not necessarily exacerbate the observed clinical manifestations” as was the case in this study.

-While it is true that the LRV-1 has been associated with patients with leishmaniasis With severe clinical forms and treatment failures, not all studies have demonstrated this association. For this reason, research continues on the interaction of the virus, parasite and human host to try to elucidate this question.

-Given the need to do more research “to clarify the impact of LRV-1 on the pathogenesis of Leishmania”, what are the next studies that will be promoted by the Gorgas Institute?

-To continue advancing in this line of research, a study is being carried out that aims to evaluate the infectivity and immune response in vitro of the isolates of L. (V.) panamensis y L. (V.) guyanensis positive for the virus, and thus determine from an immunological point of view the relationship of the virus with patients who have had treatment failure and severe clinical forms.

By: Violeta Villar Liste | [email protected]

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