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Background: Trypanosoma cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas disease, which is endemic to subtropical and tropical Americas. The disease treatment remains partially ineffective, involving therapies directed to the parasite as well as palliative strategies for the clinical manifestations. Therefore, novel candidates for disease control are necessary. Additionally, strategies based on parasite inhibition via specific targets and application of compounds which improve the immune response against the disease is welcomed. Ghrelin is a peptide hormone pointed as a substance with important cardioprotective, vasodilatory, anti-apoptotic, anti-oxidative and immune modulatory functions. The aims of this study were to evaluate the immunomodulatory effects of ghrelin in male Wistar rats infected with the Y strain of T. cruzi. Methods: In order to delineate an immune response against T. cruzi mediated by ghrelin, we evaluated the following parameters: quantification of blood and cardiac parasites; analysis of cell markers (CD3+, CD8+, NK, NKT, CD45RA+, macrophage and RT1B+); nitric oxide (NO) production; lymphoproliferation assays; splenocyte apoptosis; and INF-γ, IL-12 and IL-6 quantification in sera. Results: The animals infected with T. cruzi and supplemented with ghrelin demonstrated an upregulated pattern in macrophage and NO production, whereas an anti-inflammatory response was observed in T cells and cytokines. The low response against T. cruzi mediated by T cells probably contributed to a higher colonization of the cardiac tissue, when compared to infected groups. On the other side, the peptide decreased the inflammatory infiltration in cardiac tissue infected with T. cruzi. Conclusions: Ghrelin demonstrated a dual function in animals infected with T. cruzi. Further studies, especially related to the decrease of cardiac tissue inflammation, are needed in order to determine the advantages of ghrelin supplementation in Chagas disease, mostly for populations from endemic areas.
De Paula Silva, F., Da Costa, C. M. B., Pereira, L. M., Lessa, D. F. S., Pitol, D. L., Issa, J. P. M., … Abrahão, A. A. C. (2019). Effects of ghrelin supplementation on the acute phase of Chagas disease in rats. Parasites and Vectors, 12(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13071-019-3787-y