Harnessing the Power of a Parasite (Leishmania) That Can Stop Pain; Study Reveals Pain-Relief Pathways in Disfiguring Skin Disease; Work on Skin Test for Immunity Also Reported

Leishmania mexicana

For the first time, scientists have begun to figure out why the disfiguring skin lesions caused by cutaneous leishmaniasis don’t hurt. Researchers analyzed leishmaniasis lesions on mouse skin to detect metabolic signaling pathways that differed from uninfected mice. Results suggested the parasites that cause the disease change pain perception – presumably as a way to delay treatment and promote their own survival. “No one knows why these lesions are painless – but it has been thought that the parasite somehow manipulates the host physiological system,” said Abhay Satoskar, MD, PhD, senior author of the study and Professor of Pathology in The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Based on our data, something the parasites do triggers pathways that suppress pain. How they do that, we’re still investigating.”

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