Indexed on: 06 Jan '11Published on: 06 Jan '11Published in: Scandinavian Journal of Immunology
Leptospirosis is a neglected infectious disease caused by spirochetes from the genus Leptospira. It constitutes a major public health problem in developing countries, with outcomes ranging from subclinical infections to fatal pulmonary haemorrhage and Weil's syndrome. To successfully establish an infection, leptospires bind to extracellular matrix compounds and host cells. The interaction of leptospires with pathogen recognition receptors is a fundamental issue in leptospiral immunity as well as in immunophatology. Pathogenic but not saprophytic leptospires are able to evade the host complement system, circulate in the blood and spread into tissues. The target organs in human leptospirosis include the kidneys and the lungs. The association of an autoimmune process with these pathologies has been explored and diverse mechanisms that permit leptospires to survive in the kidneys of reservoir animals have been proposed. However, despite the intense research aimed at the development of a leptospirosis vaccine supported by the genome sequencing of Leptospira strains, there have been relatively few studies focused on leptospiral immunity. The knowledge of evasion strategies employed by pathogenic leptospires to subvert the immune system is of extreme importance as they may represent targets for the development of new treatments and prophylactic approaches in leptospirosis.