Despite a major research thrust by the World Health Organization (WHO), no effective vaccine exists for the visceral, or internal, form of leishmaniasis. A milder form of leishmaniasis, which infects the skin, was reported among American military personnel during Operation Desert Storm and other conflicts in the region.
Peter H. Seeberger, Ph.D., of the Laboratory for Organic Chemistry at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zurich headed the research group. It also included researchers from the Swiss Tropical Institute in Basel and Pevion Inc., a biotech company focusing on virosomal delivery systems. The group reported their findings in ACS Chemical Biology, one of 34 peer-reviewed journals published by the American Chemical Society, the worlds largest scientific society.
Several leishmaniasis candidate vaccines are in various stages of development. Seebergers group, however, reported development of a unique two-part preparation. It is among a new genre of carbohydrate-based vaccines stirring excitement in medical circles. Carbohydrates are chemical compounds that include sugar and are made from units linked together like beads on a chain.
"This is the first and only carbohydrate vaccine candidate against this disease," Seeberger stated. "This candidate vaccine brings something new to the table and may be of use not only in humans but also for pet vaccines. Dogs get leishmaniasis, particularly in Southern Europe and a vaccine is urgently needed there, as well."