A number of leishmaniasis vaccine candidates are at various stages of pre-clinical and clinical development. Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne neglected tropical disease (NTD) caused by a protozoan parasite of the genus Leishmania and transmitted to humans by the bite of a sand fly. Visceral leishmaniasis (VL, kala-azar) is a high mortality NTD found mostly in South Asia and East Africa, while cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) is a disfiguring NTD highly endemic in the Middle East, Central Asia, North Africa, and the Americas. Estimates attribute 50,000 annual deaths and 3.3 million disability-adjusted life years to leishmaniasis. There are only a few approved drug treatments, no prophylactic drug and no vaccine. Ideally, an effective vaccine against leishmaniasis will elicit long-lasting immunity and protect broadly against VL and CL. Vaccines such as Leish-F1, F2 and F3, developed at IDRI and designed based on selected Leishmania antigen epitopes, have been in clinical trials. Other groups, including the Sabin Vaccine Institute in collaboration with the National Institutes of Health are investigating recombinant Leishmania antigens in combination with selected sand fly salivary gland antigens in order to augment host immunity. To date, both VL and CL vaccines have been shown to be cost-effective in economic modeling studies.
Keywords: Leishmaniasis; NTDs; Neglected tropical diseases.
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