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Journal of Venomous Animals and Toxins including Tropical Diseases

On-line version ISSN 1678-9199

J. Venom. Anim. Toxins incl. Trop. Dis vol.11 no.4 Botucatu Oct./Dec. 2005 



Use of Cavia porcellus (guinea pigs) as an experimental model for Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis



Paula C. D. R.; Friedman H.; Sampaio R. N. R.

School of Medicine, University of Brasília, UnB, Brasília, Distrito Federal, Brazil





Laboratory animals are fundamental to study immunological aspects and the efficacy of new drugs to treat leishmaniasis. However, we do not have practical and good animal models to study leishmaniasis caused by Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis - L(V)b. In this study, thirty-two experimental animals (Cavia porcellus) were injected in the hind foot with 3x105 promastigote forms of L(V)b. The animals were followed for eight weeks. None of the experimental animals developed lesions or presented the parasite in any of the tests performed (histopathological exam, smears, culture, inoculation in hamsters, and polymerase chain reaction).

Key words: experimental leishmaniasis, Cavia, animal model, American leishmaniasis, pathogenesis.




American tegumentary leishmaniasis (ATL) is in frank expansion in Brazil and all over the world (8). The biological cycle of leishmaniasis involves the sandfly, the reservoirs, and the final host (16, 17). The vectors and the reservoirs are difficult to control, since they are generally wild and some may not be known yet.

Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis - L(V)b - is an important etiologic agent in Brazil due to its high morbidity, principally by the compromising of mucous membranes, which, in some cases, leads to deformations of the facial region and death (10, 13).

The usual control measure for ATL is treatment of the infected individual. New drugs have been discovered to act against leishmaniasis, and laboratory animals are fundamental to study the efficacy of these drugs.

So far, we do not have practical and good animal models to study leishmaniasis caused by L(V)b. However, previous studies on the inoculation of Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis and Leishmania (Leishmania) guyanensis in Cavia porcellus showed promising results (11, 15).

In this study, our objective was to verify the susceptibility of Cavia porcellus to infection by L(V)b.



This was an experimental study carried out in a laboratory. Thirty-two experimental animals were injected in the hind foot with 3x105 promastigote forms of L(V)b, strain MHOM/BR/94/M15176, identified by monoclonal antibodies and polymerase chain reaction (PCR). The animals were followed for eight weeks. Weekly, two individuals were sacrificed and fragments of their foot, liver, spleen, regional ganglia, nose, and bone marrow were taken for parasitological tests (4, 5, 14): culture, smears, inoculation in hamsters, polymerase chain reaction (2), and histopathological exam (3, 9).



There was no development of skin lesions. All the methods used for L(V)b detection - smears, culture, histopathological exam, inoculation in hamsters, and PCR - showed negative results. No cellular infiltration was observed in the histopathological exam.



Susceptibility of cavy to L(L)enrietti has already been documented by a number of authors (7, 11, 12). The infection caused by L(V)b was demonstrated by SCORZA et al. in 1992 (15). Despite the results shown by this author, the search for mucous metastasis was negative using various laboratory methods, including PCR. Current works studying the genome of L(V)b have shown variability within the species (6). Such differences have also been reported and could explain discordant results that were found in this study.

Although we used a dose of promastigotes similar to that of other authors, and even three times higher than that used by SCORZA et al., this inoculum has still been considered low. It has been reported that inoculums similar to those found in natural infection may cause asymptomatic infection, showing T lymphocyte cell answer equal to that observed in humans. Paradoxically, the possibility of transmission of leishmania to its vector is higher in lower doses (under 106 promastigotes) that cause asymptomatic infection. It seems that this natural selection might be ideal for a longstanding life cycle of the parasite (1).



Cavia porcellus was not susceptible to inoculation with 3x105 promastigote forms of L(V)b since none of the experimental animals developed lesions or showed presence of the parasite in any of the methods used. The alterations observed in the histopathological exam did not suggest the presence of leishmaniasis. More studies must be carried out to verify the susceptibility of Cavia porcellus to infection by L(V)b with different doses of promastigotes. Besides, the animals should be observed for at least six months, according to the protocol established by FUNASA.



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2 CERQUEIRA EJL., SHERLOCK I., GUSMÃO A., BARBOSA Jr AA., NAKATANI M. Inoculação experimental de Equus asinus com Leishmania chagasi Cunha & Chagas, 1937. Rev. Soc. Bras. Med. Trop., 2003, 36, 695-701.        [ Links ]

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Correspondence to
Carmem Déa Ribeiro de Paula
Laboratório de Dermatomicologia, Faculdade de Medicina, Universidade de Brasília, Campus Universitário
Brasília, DF, Brasil
Phone/Fax: 55 61 3285047

Received: November 9, 2004
Accepted: March 31, 2005
Published online: October 30, 2005

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