Drug resistance mechanisms in clinical isolates of Leishmania donovani

Indian J Med Res. 2006 Mar;123(3):411-22.


Leishmania are protozoan parasites distributed worldwide. About 1.5-2.0 million cases are reported in the world annually from this disease and the death toll is estimated to be 57,000. Along with Brazil, Sudan and Bangladesh, India contributes to 90 per cent of the global burden of visceral leishmaniasis (VL). The absence of effective vaccines and vector control programmes, makes chemotherapy the most widely used tool against leishmaniasis. Chemotherapy based on pentavalent antimonials has been used for more than 50 years and remains the mainstay for treatment of leishmaniasis. Clinical resistance to pentavalent antimonials, in the form of sodium antimony gluconate (SAG), has become a major problem in the treatment of kala-azar (visceral leishmaniasis) in India. The mechanism of resistance is unclear in these clinical isolates although a lot of work has been carried out with Leishmania mutants selected in vitro by step-wise increasing drug concentration using the antimony related metal arsenic and more recently sodium antimony gluconate. We for the first time, investigated the molecular aspect of drug resistance in clinically confirmed sodium antimony gluconate resistant field isolates and found that the parasite evaded cytotoxic effects of therapy by enhanced efflux of drugs through overexpressed membrane proteins belonging to the superfamily of ABC (ATP-binding cassette) transporters. Additionally, our study also points towards cell surface changes in resistant isolates.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimony Sodium Gluconate / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance*
  • Humans
  • Leishmania donovani / metabolism*
  • Leishmaniasis / drug therapy*
  • Models, Biological


  • Antimony Sodium Gluconate