Leishmania are obligate intracellular parasites known to have developed successful ways of efficient immunity evasion. Because of this, leishmaniasis, a disease caused by these flagellated protists, is ranked as one of the most serious tropical infections worldwide. Neither prophylactic medication, nor vaccination has been developed thus far, even though the infection has usually led to strong and long-lasting immunity. In this paper, we describe a “suicidal” system established in Leishmania mexicana, a human pathogen causing cutaneous leishmaniasis. This system is based on the expression and (de)stabilization of a basic phospholipase A2 toxin from the Bothrops pauloensis snake venom, which leads to the inducible cell death of the parasites in vitro. Furthermore, the suicidal strain was highly attenuated during macrophage infection, regardless of the toxin stabilization. Such a deliberately weakened parasite could be used to vaccinate the host, as its viability is regulated by the toxin stabilization, causing a profoundly reduced pathogenesis.
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