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Scientists study drug resistance to kala azar using hamsters

Kala azar or more specifically visceral leishmaniasis is a disease endemic to india. It is caused by protozoan parasites belonging to the genus Leishmania. In India, the organism Leishmania donovani is responsible for the majority of kala - azar infections. Sandflies are the insect vectors through which the parasite spreads in the population. Blackening of skin, enlargement of the liver and spleen with fever are the common symptoms of the disease. After malaria, Leishmania are the second largest parasitic killers in the world. Emergence of resistance to various common drugs has complicated the treatment of this disease.In a recent study, scientists from Barsat government college, Kolkata,  Indian Institute of Chemical Biology, Kolkata and Calcutta National Medical College have studied how the parasites react to the drug Miltefosine. Miltefosine was introduced to treat patients who were unresponsive to the various other drugs used against the disease. Infecting hamsters with clinical isolates from kala - azar patients, the researchers were able to  demonstrate that hamsters infected with the Miltefosine resistant clinical isolates retained more than 50% or the parasites in their spleen and liver. The study gives us an understanding of what physical symptoms are displayed in patients suffering from a Miltefosine resistant Leishmania infection and hence is a step in the right direction to treat such complicated cases.