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PLoS Pathogens Issue Image | Vol. 5(8) August 2009

Blood-fed Lutzomyia longipalpis sandfly.

Sandflies are the vector for the leishmaniases, a complex of disfiguring and potentially fatal neglected tropical parasitic diseases. To facilitate transmission, Leishmania parasites block the sandfly gut by secreting a mucin-like gel that forces the regurgitation of parasites during bloodfeeding. Regurgitated gel dramatically exacerbates infection and disease. Rogers et al. demonstrate that the gel manipulates the wound healing response of the host to the sandfly bite by recruiting host cells and conditions them to supply nutrients for intracellular parasite growth. By understanding the interaction between parasites, vectors, and hosts during infection, we can design more appropriate anti-parasitic drugs and vaccines (see Rogers et al., doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1000555).

Image Credit: Ray Wilson, Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine