As 'Flesh-Eating' Leishmania Come Closer, a Vaccine Against Them Does, Too

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There are some 30 species of Leishmania parasites, which take on two different forms in their life cycle. Illustrated here are promastigotes (top) and amastigotes (bottom) with a typical boil caused by a leishmaniasis infection. Rights: iStock / Getty / purchased / not transferable 

Some species of the phlebotomine sand fly transmit Leishmania parasites, which can cause leishmaniasis, a disease that creates skin boils. Severe forms caused by certain Leishmania strains devour parts of nose and mouth, and others still can fatally maim liver and spleen. Credit: parasitology department of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in collaboration with Georgia Tech.

A typical boil caused by leishmaniasis. These can spread across the body if left untreated. A form of the disease called mucosal leishmaniasis can viciously infect tissues in the lips and nose, even partially removing them. Credit: Parasitology department of the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in collaboration with Georgia Tech

The life cycle of Leishmania parasites in flies and humans. They pass through promastigote and amastigote phases as they spread. Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) / media handout image.

Projection models calculated for a 2010 University of Texas at Austin study show the predicted progressive spread of one of the main carriers of Leishmania through the United States. The top row represents the study's predictions for 2020, the second row 2050, and the third row 2080. Each row represents two different calculation models. The study attributes the predicted spread to warmer overall temperatures as a result of climate change. Credit: University of Texas at Austin / https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0000585

The leishmaniasis vaccine's fake virus particle (top) receives the same odd carbohydrate that Leishmania parasites secret on their exterior. The fake virus attracts a strong immune reaction and associates it with the carbohydrate. Immune cells then aggressively seek out the carbohydrate and, in the process, destroy the parasites. Credit: Georgia Tech / Finn lab

Researchers from the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Brazil collect phlebotomine sand flies from a leishmaniasis outbreak region. They collaborated with researchers at Georgia Tech on a vaccine against Leishmania parasites. Credit: UFMG / Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech chemistry and life sciences researcher M. G. Finn (l.) and UFMG parasitology and immunology researcher Alexandre Marques (r.) in Finn's lab at Georgia Tech. Their team has developed an experimental vaccine against Leishmania parasites. Credit: Georgia Tech / Christopher Moore

Professor M. G. Finn in his lab at Georgia Tech. Finn is a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences and in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which he also chairs.  Finn is most widely known for his research on click chemistry. A famous study in partnership with Nobel Prize winning chemist Karl Barry Sharpless, and Harmuth Kolb, Click Chemistry: Diverse Chemical Function from a Few Good Reactions, has been cited more than 10,000 times, according to Google Scholar. Finn also holds the James A. Carlos Family Chair for Pediatric Technology at Georgia Tech. Credit: Georgia Tech / Christopher Moore

Professor M. G. Finn in his lab at Georgia Tech. Finn is a professor in Georgia Tech’s School of Biological Sciences and in the School of Chemistry and Biochemistry, which he also chairs.  Finn is most widely known for his research on click chemistry. A famous study in partnership with Nobel Prize winning chemist Karl Barry Sharpless, and Harmuth Kolb, Click Chemistry: Diverse Chemical Function from a Few Good Reactions, has been cited more than 10,000 times, according to Google Scholar. Finn also holds the James A. Carlos Family Chair for Pediatric Technology at Georgia Tech. Credit: Georgia Tech / Christopher Moore