The ability of the Chagas disease agent Trypanosoma cruzi to resist extended in vivo exposure to highly effective trypanocidal compounds prompted us to explore the potential for dormancy and its contribution to failed drug treatments in this infection. We document the development of non-proliferating intracellular amastigotes in vivo and in vitro in the absence of drug treatment. Non-proliferative amastigotes ultimately converted to trypomastigotes and established infections in new host cells. Most significantly, dormant amastigotes were uniquely resistant to extended drug treatment in vivo and in vitro and could re-establish a flourishing infection after as many as 30 days of drug exposure. These results demonstrate a dormancy state in T. cruzi that accounts for the failure of highly cytotoxic compounds to completely resolve the infection. The ability of T. cruzi to establish dormancy throws into question current methods for identifying curative drugs but also suggests alternative therapeutic approaches.
BackgroundThe two available drugs for treatment of T. cruzi infection, nifurtimox and benznidazole (BZ), have potential toxic side effects and variable efficacy, contributing to their low rate of use. With scant economic resources available for antiparasitic drug discovery and development, inexpensive, high-throughput and in vivo assays to screen potential new drugs and existing compound libraries are essential.MethodsIn this work, we describe the development and validation of improved methods to test anti-T. cruzi compounds in vitro and in vivo using parasite lines expressing the firefly luciferase (luc) or the tandem tomato fluorescent protein (tdTomato). For in vitro assays, the change in fluorescence intensity of tdTomato-expressing lines was measured as an indicator of parasite replication daily for 4 days and this method was used to identify compounds with IC50 lower than that of BZ.FindingsThis method was highly reproducible and had the added advantage of requiring relatively low numbers of parasites and no additional indicator reagents, enzymatic post-processes or laborious visual counting. In vivo, mice were infected in the footpads with fluorescent or bioluminescent parasites and the signal intensity was measured as a surrogate of parasite load at the site of infection before and after initiation of drug treatment. Importantly, the efficacy of various drugs as determined in this short-term (<2 weeks) assay mirrored that of a 40 day treatment course.ConclusionThese methods should make feasible broader and higher-throughput screening programs needed to identify potential new drugs for the treatment of T. cruzi infection and for their rapid validation in vivo.
SummaryCD8 + T cells have emerged as crucial players in the control of a number of protozoan pathogens, including Trypanosoma cruzi, the agent of human Chagas disease. The recent identification of the dominant targets of T. cruzi-specific T cells has allowed investigators to follow the generation of and document the functionality of T cell responses in both mice and humans. Although slow to develop in the early stages of the infection, T. cruzi -specific CD8 + T cells reach prodigious levels and remain highly functional throughout chronic infections in mice. Following drug-induced cure during either the acute or chronic stage, these immunodominant T cells persist as stable, antigen-independent memory populations. T. cruzi -specific CD8 + T cells in humans are less-well studied but appear to lose functionality and decline in numbers in these decades long infections. Changes in the frequency of parasite-specific T cell upon therapeutic treatment in humans may provide a new metric for determining treatment efficacy.
During experimental infection with Trypanosoma cruzi, mice develop a strong CD8+ T cell response focused mainly on a few immunodominant peptides encoded in trans-sialidase family genes. Despite the potency of this response, the initial emergence and peak of parasite-specific CD8+ T cells has been noted to be relatively slow. In this study, we further document this delayed onset of T cell responses to T. cruzi as measured by the increase in frequency of parasite-specific T cells, the effector function of these cells, T cell proliferation in general, and the recruitment of cells into the draining lymph nodes. This delay does not appear to be the result of general immunosuppressive effects of the infection, a limitation in parasite numbers, or parasite trafficking to lymph nodes or to the specific epitope. Increasing the initial infecting dose or the density of parasite epitopes on APCs can modestly speed the generation of anti-T. cruzi T cell responses. Given these characteristics of the response, we propose that T. cruzi is a stealth invader, largely avoiding recognition by components of the innate immune system until the infection is well established. This conclusion is supported by the ability to accelerate the induction of T cell responses to T. cruzi by administration of ligands for TLR2 and TLR9 at the time of infection. These studies highlight a previously unappreciated mechanism of immune evasion, the surreptitious establishment of infection, by the protozoan T. cruzi.
We studied the seroprevalence of antibodies against Trypanosoma cruzi in the human population along with domiciliary infestation by triatomine bugs in an area endemic for Chagas disease in the Chaco Province of Argentina. In addition, we carried out parasitologic surveys in patients, dogs, wild mammals, and vectors. The mean seroprevalence in humans was 27.81% (109 of 392) and 24.14% (63 of 261) in 1-15-year-old children. The minimum domiciliary infestation rate was 13.33%, with certain areas reaching 53.85%. The prevalence was 15.09% (16 of 106) in dogs and 35.71% (10 of 28) in opossums. Infection with T. cruzi was detected in 30.10% (59 of 196) of the Triatoma infestans tested. Compared with nationwide studies, our data suggest that 1) there are zones requiring immediate sanitary action, and 2) nationwide estimates are based on very heterogeneous epidemiologic situations. This heterogeneity emphasizes the importance of in-depth studies of restricted areas to provide additional information for a better understanding of the present status of Chagas disease in Argentina.
A major contributor to treatment failure in Chagas disease, caused by infection with the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, is that current treatment regimens do not address the drug insensitivity of transiently dormant T. cruzi amastigotes. Here, we demonstrated that use of a currently available drug in a modified treatment regimen of higher individual doses, given less frequently over an extended treatment period, could consistently extinguish T. cruzi infection in three mouse models of Chagas disease. Once per week administration of benznidazole at a dose 2.5 to 5 times the standard daily dose rapidly eliminated actively replicating parasites and ultimately eradicated the residual, transiently dormant parasite population in mice. This outcome was initially confirmed in “difficult to cure” mouse infection models using immunological, parasitological, and molecular biological approaches and ultimately corroborated by whole organ analysis of optically clarified tissues using light sheet fluorescence microscopy (LSFM). This tool was effective for monitoring pathogen load in intact organs, including detection of individual dormant parasites, and for assessing treatment outcomes. LSFM-based analysis also suggested that dormant amastigotes of T. cruzi may not be fully resistant to trypanocidal compounds such as benznidazole. Collectively, these studies provide important information on the phenomenon of dormancy in T. cruzi infection in mice, demonstrate methods to therapeutically override dormancy using a currently available drug, and provide methods to monitor alternative therapeutic approaches for this, and possibly other, low-density infectious agents.
The parasite Trypanosoma cruzi is the causative agent of Chagas disease, a potentially life-threatening infection that represents a major health problem in Latin America. Several characteristics of this protozoan contribute to the lack of an effective vaccine, among them: its silent invasion mechanism, T. cruzi antigen redundancy and immunodominance without protection. Taking into account these issues, we engineered Traspain, a chimeric antigen tailored to present a multivalent display of domains from key parasitic molecules, combined with stimulation of the STING pathway by c-di-AMP as a novel prophylactic strategy. This formulation proved to be effective for the priming of functional humoral responses and pathogen-specific CD8+ and CD4+ T cells, compatible with a Th1/Th17 bias. Interestingly, vaccine effectiveness assessed across the course of infection, showed a reduction in parasite load and chronic inflammation in different proof of concept assays. In conclusion, this approach represents a promising tool against parasitic chronic infections.
scite is a Brooklyn-based organization that helps researchers better discover and understand research articles through Smart Citations–citations that display the context of the citation and describe whether the article provides supporting or contrasting evidence. scite is used by students and researchers from around the world and is funded in part by the National Science Foundation and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.
334 Leonard St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Copyright © 2024 scite LLC. All rights reserved.
Made with 💙 for researchers
Part of the Research Solutions Family.