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Evidence that lipopolisaccharide may contribute to the cytokine storm and cellular activation in patients with visceral leishmaniasis

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Background: Visceral leishmaniasis (VL) is characterized by parasite-specific immunosuppression besides an intense pro-inflammatory response. Lipopolisaccharide (LPS) has been implicated in the immune activation of T-cell deficient diseases such as HIV/AIDS and idiopathic lymphocytopenia. The source of LPS is gram-negative bacteria that enter the circulation because of immunological mucosal barrier breakdown. As gut parasitization also occurs in VL, it was hypothesized that LPS may be elevated in leishmaniasis, contributing to cell activation. Methodology/Principal Findings: Flow cytometry analysis and immunoassays (ELISA and luminex micro-beads system) were used to quantify T-cells and soluble factors. Higher LPS and soluble CD14 levels were observed in active VL in comparison to healthy subjects, indicating that LPS was bioactive; there was a positive correlation between these molecules (r = 0.61;p<0.05). Interestingly, LPS was negatively correlated with CD4+ (r = -0.71;p<0.01) and CD8+ T-cells (r = -0.65;p<0.05). Moreover, higher levels of activation-associated molecules (HLA-DR, CD38, CD25) were seen on T lymphocytes, which were positively associated with LPS levels. Pro-inflammatory cytokines and macrophage migration inhibitory factor (MIF) were also augmented in VL patients. Consistent with the higher immune activation status, LPS levels were positively correlated with the inflammatory cytokines IL-6 (r = 0.63;p<0.05), IL-8 (r = 0.89;p<0.05), and MIF (r = 0.64;p<0.05). Also, higher plasma intestinal fatty acid binding protein (IFABP) levels were observed in VL patients, which correlated with LPS levels (r = 0.57;p<0.05). Conclusions/Significance: Elevated levels of LPS in VL, in correlation with T-cell activation and elevated pro-inflammatory cytokines and MIF indicate that this bacterial product may contribute to the impairment in immune effector function. The cytokine storm and chronic immune hyperactivation status may contribute to the observed T-cell depletion. LPS probably originates from microbial translocation as suggested by IFABP levels and, along with Leishmania antigen-mediated immune suppression, may play a role in the immunopathogenesis of VL. These findings point to possible benefits of antimicrobial prophylaxis in conjunction with anti-Leishmania therapy. © 2011 Santos-Oliveira et al.




Santos-Oliveira, J. R., Regis, E. G., LealCá, C. R. B., Cunha, R. V., BozzaPatrí, P. T., & Da-Cruz, A. M. (2011). Evidence that lipopolisaccharide may contribute to the cytokine storm and cellular activation in patients with visceral leishmaniasis. PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases, 5(7).

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