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In vitro and in vivo behaviour of sympatric Leishmania (V.) braziliensis, L. (V.) peruviana and their hybrids

  • DOI:
  • Published online: 07 November 2011

Leishmania (Viannia) braziliensis is the main cause of highly disfiguring mucocutaneous leishmaniasis (MCL) in South America. The related species L. (V.) peruviana has only been identified in simple cutaneous lesions (CL). Hybrids between L. braziliensis and L. peruviana have been reported although genetic exchange in Leishmania is considered to be rare. Here we compared growth in vitro, adaptive capacity under thermal and oxidative stress and behaviour in a hamster model, of L. braziliensis, L. peruviana, and their putative hybrids. At 24°C, the optimal temperature for in vitro growth, L. braziliensis had the highest growth rate. In in vitro studies hybrid clones presented heterogeneous phenotypes, from slower growth rates, similar to L. peruviana, to higher growth rates, as observed in L. braziliensis. Hamsters infected with hybrid strains, presented the highest parasite densities and aggressive relapses at a later stage of infection. Hybrids generally presented higher plasticity and phenotypic diversity than the putative parental species, with potential eco-epidemiological implications, including an impact on the success of disease control.

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*Corresponding author: Unidade de Parasitologia Médica, Instituto de Higiene e Medicina Tropical, Universidade Nova de Lisboa, Rua da Junqueira, 100, 1346-008 Lisboa, Portugal. Tel: +351 213652600. Fax: +351 213632105. E-mail:
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