Leishmaniasis, caused by an infection of the Leishmania
protozoa, is a neglected tropical disease and a major health problem in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, with approximately 350 million people worldwide at risk and 2 million new cases occurring annually. Current treatments for leishmaniasis are not highly efficacious and are associated with high costs, especially in low- and middle-income endemic countries, and high toxicity. Due to a surge in the incidence of leishmaniases worldwide, the development of new strategies such as a prophylactic vaccine has become a high priority. However, the ability of Leishmania
to undermine immune recognition has limited our efforts to design safe and efficacious vaccines against leishmaniasis. Numerous antileishmanial vaccine preparations based on DNA, subunit, and heat-killed parasites with or without adjuvants have been tried in several animal models but very few have progressed beyond the experimental stage. However, it is known that people who recover from Leishmania
infection can be protected lifelong against future infection, suggesting that a successful vaccine requires a controlled infection to develop immunologic memory and subsequent long-term immunity. Live attenuated Leishmania
parasites that are non-pathogenic and provide a complete range of antigens similarly to their wild-type counterparts could evoke such memory and, thus, would be effective vaccine candidates. Our laboratory has developed several live attenuated Leishmania
vaccines by targeted centrin
gene disruptions either by homologous recombination or, more recently, by using genome editing technologies involving CRISPR-Cas9. In this review, we focused on the sequential history of centrin
vaccine development, along with the characterization of its safety and efficacy. Further, we discussed other major considerations regarding the transition of dermotropic live attenuated centrin
gene-deleted parasites from the laboratory to human clinical trials.
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