Nectar of common plants, such as sunflower, contains bioactive substances that can inhibit growth Leishmania and could be used to fight a potentially deadly disease caused by a parasite, scientists say.
Leishmania parasites infect more than a million people a year, of whom more than 200,000 are infected with visceral leishmaniasis or kala-azar, the deadliest form of the disease, according to a study published in PLOS neglected tropical diseases. This is a greater health burden than any human parasite except malaria, the study said.
The disease affects some of the world’s poorest people and, according to the World Health Organization, is linked to problems such as malnutrition, poverty and weakened immunity, as well as environmental changes such as deforestation and urbanization.
Leishmania The infection is spread by blood-feeding sand flies, which also consume flower nectar, a complex of chemicals that stop the growth of the parasite. “These same compounds could reduce infection in nectar-consuming sand flies,” said Evan Palmer-Young, author of a study affiliated with the USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory, Beltsville, Maryland, USA.
The study showed that the concentrations of various phytochemicals (chemical compounds produced by plants) present in the nectar of flowers were more than sufficient to prevent the growth Leishmania.
If the compounds in the flower nectar are equally effective against Leishmania parasites in the natural environment, as indicated by laboratory experiments, strategic cultivation of such plants could help reduce the burden Leishmania parasites in sand flies, scientists said. “Such interventions could provide an environmentally friendly complement to existing disease control tools,” the study concluded.
“Unlike insecticidal methods of controlling sand flies, the incorporation of antiparasitic nectar sources into the landscape and home environment could benefit public health without endangering beneficial insects,” said Palmer-Young. SciDev.Net. “These findings suggest an unexplored, landscaped approach to reducing the transmission of a major neglected tropical disease worldwide.”
According to researchers, flower nectar appears to be the “preferred food source” for sand flies. Nectar and pollen also contain several secondary metabolites, which include flavonoids – a class of antimicrobial and antileishmanual compounds common in both nectar and pollen.
“This suggests that consumption of nectar rich in secondary metabolites could reduce Leishmania transmission by reducing the intensity of nectar-feeding sand fly carriers, indicating a new strategy for drug-free and insecticide-free disease control,” the researchers said.
Visceral leishmaniasis can cause fever, enlarged liver and spleen, anemia and weight loss. Other forms of the disease include cutaneous leishmaniasis – which causes ulcers and other skin lesions, often leading to scarring and even disability – and mucocutaneous leishmaniasis, which damages the mucous membranes of the mouth, nose and throat.
Chiranjib Pal, a professor in the Department of Zoology at West Bengal State University in Barasat, India, noted that although the authors proposed “an approach based on landscape ecology to reduce Leishmaniatransmission – this is an overall observation, not too specific “.
Researchers say they reduce the potential for nectar and pollen Leishmania epidemiology will depend on the contribution of nectar in the diet of sand flies and the extent to which the success of laboratory tests is replicated in the intestines of infected flies.
Palmer-Young, EC, et al. (2022) Can flower nectars reduce leishmaniasis transmission ?. PLOS neglected tropical diseases. doi.org/10.1371/journal.pntd.0010373.
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