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Researchers from Imperial College London and University of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, are studying the Leishmania parasite to improve our understanding of one of the most neglected tropical diseases.

Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease affecting an estimated 12 million people in 88 countries. It occurs in some of the poorest regions in the world, where medical diagnosis and treatment are limited. Those affected often have pronounced immunosuppression, but what triggers this is not understood. In patients that are failing to heal, researchers have found significantly increased levels of an enzyme, arginase, which can impair the immune response. Modulation of arginase might be a potential therapeutic strategy.

“The public health impact of the leishmaniases has been grossly underestimated, mainly due to lack of awareness of its serious impact on health. We are working to understand how Leishmania survives in the body and how we could turn the table on this deadly scourge of mankind” says Dr Pascale Kropf, Department of Immunology, Imperial College London.

Visitors to the exhibit will enter an Ethiopian hut and learn about the Leishmania life cycle, how the parasites infect people and elicit immune responses in the infected person, and how the disease is currently treated.

Exhibited by Imperial College London; University of Addis Adaba, Ethiopia.

See all exhibits from 2010