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The PLOS WorldLeish-6 Collection – call for additional papers

Dr Jorge Alvar, Head of Leishmaniasis, DNDi, and Dr Javier Moreno, Director of WHO Collaborating Center for Leishmaniasis, present the first five papers which launch the PLOS WorldLeish-6 Collection and call for further contributions.


Last May we opened a call for papers for a PLOS Collection on Leishmaniasis, to accompany the 6th World Leish Congress (WL6) which will be taking place in Toledo, Spain in 2017. Since then many papers have been received, showing the interest of this scientific community in the disease and a desire to participate in this collection; most are currently undergoing editorial review.

Leishmania Impression Smear / Michael Wunderli
Leishmania Impression Smear / Michael Wunderli

The WL6 organizing committee has selected the following five papers to launch the collection. These have been published in the last few months in different PLOS journals, covering different aspects of leishmaniasis, ranging from genetics to transmission dynamics. These papers illustrate the complexity of the disease and the wide range of research fields relevant to leishmaniasis.

An article in PLOS ONE provided a new insight into the dynamic of immunological reactions against Leishmania parasites. In a canine experimental model, Rodríguez-Cortés et al. studied the cytokine profile expressed by different target tissues in the same individual and the changes it undergoes throughout the course of infection. Their model suggests a compartmentalized immune response where central target organs, such as the spleen and liver, present a mixed cytokine response early on in the infection, while in the later chronic stages an anti-inflammatory/regulatory immune response is activated in peripheral tissues.

Analysis of parasite and host gene expression in lesions may lead to the identification of new parasite virulence factors and may identify host responses that promote parasite persistence. Following this line of thought, Christensen et al. presented in PLOS NTDs a study on skin biopsies from L. braziliensis infected patients. Using high throughput RNA sequencing, the authors simultaneously analyzed human and L. braziliensis transcriptomes in patients´ lesions and identified unexpected differences in host immune responses that correlated with active transcription of parasite genes.

Sand flies such as this P. papatasi, are responsible for the spread of the vector-borne parasitic disease Leishmaniasis, which is caused by the obligate intracellular protozoa of the genus Leishmania. CDC / Public Domain
Sand flies such as this P. papatasi, are responsible for the spread of the vector-borne parasitic disease Leishmaniasis, which is caused by the obligate intracellular protozoa of the genus Leishmania. CDC / Public Domain

Also relating to parasite virulence, PLOS Pathogens published an article on cutaneous leishmaniasis immunopathology, describing the prognostic value of LRV1 (a cytoplasmic virus within L. guyanensis parasites) and IL.17A detection to prevent metastatic leishmaniasis in human patients. In their study, Hartley et al. investigate the immunophenotype of human patients infected by L. guyanensis and have found a significant association between the pro-inflammatory cytokine IL-17A, the presence of LRV1 and disease chronicity.

Grinnage-Pulley et al. reviewed vertical transmission of L. infantum and Trypanosoma cruzi in PLOS Pathogens. Kinetoplastids, the causative agents of Chagas disease and leishmaniasis can both be transmitted from mother to child presenting with either an asymptomatic or symptomatic congenital infection. However, this is an understudied area. The authors present an update of the knowledge on this type of transmission, highlighting the differences and similarities in scope, diagnosis, signs and symptoms and risk factors between the two kinetoplastid diseases.

Finally, a systematic literature review on the transmission dynamics of visceral leishmaniasis in the Indian Subcontinent published in PLOS NTDs completes the papers selected to launch the collection. With an eye on elimination of visceral leishmaniasis on the Indian subcontinent, Hirve et al. reviewed the evidence on asymptomatic Leishmania infection, visceral leishmaniasis treatment relapse and post kala-azar dermal leishmaniasis, as the role of these three conditions in transmission is still unclear. A key conclusion is that there is a need for xenodiagnostic and longitudinal studies to understand the potential of asymptomatic infection and PKDL as reservoirs of infection.

WorldLeish6These five initial papers form the basis of a fascinating collection, to which new papers will soon be added. We encourage the scientific community to continue to contribute to this collection with additional manuscripts.

Reminder! At WL6, DNDi will award prizes to 20 papers accepted to the collection. These will be selected by the WL6 Scientific Committee; this initiative is intended to help fund the publication of future research in this field.

Submissions can be made to PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases, PLOS Pathogens or PLOS ONE. Those articles which are accepted for publication will be included in this rolling collection – papers will not be held for coordinated publication, as PLOS and the WL6 Scientific Committee do not want to delay the release of important research in this field.

When submitting to the call for papers, authors should indicate that their research is intended for the WorldLeish-6 Collection on their cover letter. Corresponding authors are responsible for the payment of Article Processing Charges to PLOS. More information about Publication Fees can be found here.


Jorge Alvar, PhD, Head of Leishmaniasis, DNDi, graduated in Medicine and Surgery from the Complutense University of Madrid in 1979 and got a diploma in Tropical Medicine & Parasitology in Hamburg, Germany. Following this, he obtained his PhD in Medicine before completing a postdoctorate at Cambridge University.

Dr Alvar was the Medical Officer in charge of the Leishmaniasis Control Programme in the Department of Neglected Tropical Diseases at the World Health Organization (WHO) between November 2004 and November 2012, having launched an ambitious strategic plan and specific control programmes in different regions and countries. Prior to this he was the director of the National Centre of Tropical Medicine at the Institute of Health Carlos III, Madrid, Spain.

Dr Alvar has considerable expertise in, and has received awards for, his research in leishmaniasis epidemiology, chemotherapy and diagnosis, canine infection, and AIDS co-infection. He has a wide publication record spanning over 25 years and is also a member of the editorial board for different journals, and fellow of the Royal Academy of Medicine, Spain.

Dr Alvar has co-authored numerous books and chapters on the subject of leishmaniasis and tropical medicine and has also been involved in the production of several documentaries on malaria and leishmaniasis. He has participated in more than 30 research projects from different national and international research agencies, and in a number of cooperation programmes in leishmaniasis in a dozen countries in four continents with the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation for Development.

Javier Moreno (Seville, Spain) graduated in Biology from the Complutense University of Madrid in 1987 and obtained his PhD in Biology (Immunology Program) in 1994. He has been staff scientist at the National Centre for Microbiology (Instituto de Salud Carlos III – ISCIII) since 2008. He was Head of the Unit for Leishmaniasis and Chagas Disease, between 2007 and 2010, and combined this activity with the position of Associate Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Molecular Biology at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He has participated in several research projects in leishmaniasis, particularly on immunity and vaccines against infection, and currently is principal investigator of several European and national projects, funded by various public agencies and several agreements with companies and private foundations. He is an expert for the European Medicine Agency (EMA).

As a researcher, his main lines of work are oriented to studying the immunological aspects of leishmaniasis vaccine development and analysis of the immunological mechanisms of resistance and pathogenesis associated with infection. He has participated in several trials of vaccines against human and canine leishmaniasis, which has also led to the development of an experimental canine model and specific tools to analyze immunity. Another important area of research is the study of leishmaniasis in states of immunosuppression, which has contributed to understanding the risk of leishmaniasis in HIV+ patients, with solid organ transplants or under immunosuppressive therapies.

Dr. Moreno is director of the WHO Collaborating Center for Leishmaniasis, which is responsible for providing support to activities that WHO carried out to assess outbreaks in countries such as Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Sudan or South Sudan. Since May 2015 is chair of the Parasitology Department at CNM-ISCIII.

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