Leishmaniasis is a disease that ranges in severity from skin lesions to serious disfigurement and fatal systemic infection. WHO estimates that the disease results in 2 million new cases a year, threatens 350 million people in 88 countries and that there are 12 million people currently infected worldwide. Current treatment is based on chemotherapy, which relies on a handful of drugs with serious limitations such as high cost, toxicity, difficult route of administration and lack of efficacy in endemic areas. Pentavalent antimonials have been the mainstay of antileishmanial therapy for over 70 years with second line drugs, Amphotericin B and Pentamidine, used in case of antimonial failure. Since the introduction of miltefosine at the beginning of this century, no new antileishmanial compounds have been approved for human treatment. Leishmaniasis is considered one of a few parasitic diseases likely to be controllable by vaccination. However, to date no such vaccine is available despite substantial efforts by many laboratories. The development of a safe, effective and affordable antileishmanial vaccine is a critical global public-health priority. This review outlines the current status of vaccine development and looks at the currently available chemotherapy as well as examples of drugs in development and different approaches to antileishmanial drug discovery and identification of novel antiparasitic compounds.
Keywords: Leishmaniasis, antileishmanial drugs, antileishmanial vaccine, immunology, chemotherapy, drug target
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