With the Israeli government investing NIS 10 million in the effort to fight the spread of the serious skin disease known as the “Rose of Jericho” or cutaneous leishmaniasis, Prof. Shula Michaeli (along with associates Dr. Yaniv Lustig and Dr. Hanoch Goldschmidt, and PhD Student Ronen Hope), is at the forefront in searching for a cure. In the past decade, more than 1,650 Israelis from 50 communities have been diagnosed with the disease. The infection appears as red sores (hence its nickname) on the skin that erupt weeks to months after the person affected is bitten by sand flies. The infection can also damage the liver and spleen and cause anemia. The sores can cause permanent, ugly scars if untreated. Prof. Michaeli’s research, recently published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal Science Signaling, has focused on the parasite’s basic function in order to find a device that will cause it to destroy itself. The single cell parasite has only one mitochondrion which, when the parasite is being threatened, has a self-destruct mechanism in order to not threaten its own surrounding and fellow parasites, thus allowing for a “clean death” that won’t hurt healthy cells surrounding it. Through Michaeli’s research on a “cousin” of the leishmaniasis, called Trypanosoma brucei (T. brucei), which causes African sleeping sickness, she has found the protein which signals the parasite to self-destruct. Through the many similarities between the two parasites, the researcher hopes to discover scientific solutions for both diseases.
Cutaneous leishmaniasis has long been endemic in Israel. After a 15-year period of moderate illness rates, reported incidence increased from 0.4 cases per 100,000 population in 2001 to 4.4 cases per 100,000 population in 2012, and the disease emerged in areas where its presence had previously been minimal. We analyzed all cases reported to the national surveillance system and found that outbreak patterns revealed an expansion of Leishmania major infections over large areas in the southern part of the country and the occurrence of spatially focused L. tropica outbreaks in the northern part of the country. Outbreaks often followed new construction in populated areas. Further study of factors affecting the transmission of cutaneous leishmaniasis is needed in Israel, as well as the development of effective methods to control the disease, an increase in awareness among health care professionals, and intensive public education regarding control measures in areas of known leishmaniasis foci.
The Department of the Environment in the Regional Council was told that so far, fly eradication measures could not be applied since by law the authorities are committed to eradicating mosquitoes only. In the meantime, the only way to protect oneself against the fly is by wearing suitable (long sleeved) clothing after sunset and applying insect repellent.
In the meantime, the only way to protect oneself against the fly is by wearing suitable (long sleeved) clothing after sunset and applying insect repellent.
Source Bar-Ilan Newsbyte winter 2014-2015