The Bhagirath Singh Early Career Award in Infection and Immunity 2020 Recipient

Christopher Fernandez Prada

The leishmaniases are a group of life-threatening diseases caused by parasites transmitted by sand flies. Leishmaniases affect millions of people worldwide, leading to thousands of deaths every year. In the absence of vaccines, current control of these diseases is based in chemotherapy, which counts with a very limited arsenal threatened by the emergence and spread of drug-resistant strains. Cases of leishmaniases in Canada have a long history due to arrival of travelers, armed forces personnel, and immigrants from endemic areas. Moreover, dog imports from endemic areas represent an emerging vector for transmission of leishmaniasis to Canada. In the shadow of growing concern and treatment failure due to resistance, our team studies how parasites that have survived to antimicrobial treatments release small vesicles, named exosomes, containing unique signature motifs allowing for a rapid and accurate identification of such resistant parasites. Moreover, experiments proposed in our research project will permit to understand and characterize how exosomes could serve as shuttle vehicle for different genetic factors, some of which would have the power of transforming sensitive parasites in drug-resistant ones. Collectively, knowledge stemming from our research will likely lead to the development of novel diagnostic tools for the rapid and accurate detection, and appraisal, of antimicrobial resistance in the field, as well as better implemented therapeutic approaches against these important infectious agents.

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