The pathogenesis of Leishmania/HIV co-infection: cellular and immunological mechanisms

Ann Trop Med Parasitol. 2003 Oct;97 Suppl 1:79-98. doi: 10.1179/000349803225002561.


The intracellular protozoan parasites of the genus Leishmania have been recognized as opportunistic pathogens in immunosuppressed individuals, including those infected with human immunodeficiency virus type-1 (HIV-1). Leishmaniasis and AIDS overlap in several sub-tropical and tropical regions around the world, including the Mediterranean area. In 1994, 3%-7% of HIV-1-infected individuals in southern Europe developed visceral leishmaniasis. In humans, interestingly, both HIV-1 and Leishmania interact with, invade, and multiply within cells of myeloid or lymphoid origin. The combined modulation of Leishmania - and HIV-1-related pathogenesis in the co-infected cases is therefore probably a realistic goal. In the light of the recent demonstration that L. donovani can up-regulate HIV-1 replication, both in monocytoid and lymphoid cells in vitro and in co-infected individuals, it is clear from the epidemiological data available that Leishmania can probably act as a powerful co-factor in the pathogenesis of HIV-1 infection. In those who are co-infected, complex mechanisms involving cytokine secretion and cellular-signalling events play pivotal roles in the Leishmania-mediated activation and pathogenesis of HIV-1. An overview of the recent findings concerning this Leishmania/HIV-1 interaction is presented here.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • AIDS-Related Opportunistic Infections / immunology*
  • Antibodies, Protozoan / immunology
  • Antigens, Protozoan / immunology
  • Comorbidity
  • Cytokines / immunology
  • HIV-1 / immunology
  • Humans
  • Immunity, Cellular / immunology
  • Leishmaniasis / immunology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Th1 Cells / immunology
  • Th2 Cells / immunology
  • Virus Replication / immunology


  • Antibodies, Protozoan
  • Antigens, Protozoan
  • Cytokines