Mc Gill LogoUntil recently, scientists were uncertain as to how parasites seem to survive inside human cells. However, scientists from Mc Gill University have discovered that a metalloprotease found on the surface of the parasite seems to play a crucial role in neutralizing the macrophage’s defences. Metalloprotease is a molecule also called as GP63.

Leishmania is known to be a dangerous parasitic disease which affects over 12 million people across the world. Also, it was observed that more than 2 million novel cases are reported every year. Apparently, leishmania is characteristically a sub-tropical and tropical infectious disease which gets transmitted through the bite of female phlebotomine sandflies. The parasites are believed to enter the bloodstream and are then eaten up by macrophage, a type of white blood cells.

“Our results demonstrate the mechanism through which the GP63 protease alters the function of the macrophages by activating its own negative regulatory mechanisms. The infected cells act ‘frozen’, which hinders the body’s innate inflammatory immune response and leads to infection,” , stated study lead author, Dr. Martin Olivier, a scientist at the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Centre (RI-MUHC) and McGill University

Macrophages seem to block immune function and multiply thereby spreading to other tissues in the body. Leishmania could possibly occur in cutaneous forms, which are usually curable. In addition, they seem to arise in a more dangerous visceral form.

“Our research indicates that the GP63 protease is the target of choice for innovative future treatments, in terms of prevention,” continues Dr. Olivier.

The GP63 protease seems to directly activate other essential molecules that negatively control the function of the host cell.

Dr. Olivier explains that, “Better control over the activation of these host molecules could be one promising approach to treating leishmania as well as other infectious diseases that use similar infection strategies.”

This appears to be the foremost noteworthy study to have explained how the leishmania parasite blocks the immune function of macrophages. Study authors hope that this latest study may possibly lead to the development of the first prophylactic treatment for leishmania.

The findings of the study have been published in the journal, Science Signaling.