Stress-Induced Exosome Secretion Can Disrupt Communication Between Parasites That Spread Disease; New Intervention Approach May Lead to Development of Drugs to Treat and Prevent the Spread of Sleeping Sickness, Leshmaniasis, and Chagas Disease

Professor Shulamit Michaeli, Dean of Bar-Ilan's Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences, and member of the Bar-Ilan Institute of Nanotechnology and Advanced Materials (BINA) in Israel, has demonstrated how parasite migration can be controlled by creating an unfavorable environment or by damaging cell health, because parasites under stress secrete vesicles (exosomes) that disrupt their socially coordinated movement in groups. This research was published online on March 3,2017 in PLOS Pathogens. The open-access article is titled “Exosome Secretion Affects Social Motility in Trypanosoma brucei.” Dr. Michaeli's team, including students Dror Eliaz and Sriram Kannan, study trypanosomatids, single-cell parasites that cause major diseases such as African sleeping sickness, leishmaniasis, and Chagas disease, affecting millions of people. Leishmaniasis, for example, is found in 88 countries and over 300 million people are at risk of infection. African trypanosomes infect cattle and the annual economic loss due to this disease is estimated at about US$2 billion. The American Chagas' disease causes major heart and intestinal malfunction. Approximately 90 million people are at risk of infection, with five to eight million people affected annually. Trypanosome parasites are transmitted to mammals by the blood-sucking tsetse fly. The parasites' stopover in the insect host has two stages. They live in the insect's gut for two to three weeks and then migrate to the saliva glands. When the fly has its next meal, the parasites are transferred via the saliva to the mammal prey, infecting the prey’s bloodstream. In this way, the mammal now becomes host to the parasite, and the disease is spread.
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