Context: Experimental work undertaken in mice has shown a novel quinoline derivative to be effective in sharply reducing the load of Leishmania donovaniin, also called kala-azar (black fever) both the spleen and liver of lab-grown mice.

Key details:

  • The quinoline derivative is a potent inhibitor of an enzyme called topoisomerase 1 (LdTop1), which is essential for maintenance of DNA architecture in the parasites.
  • This enzyme is distinct from the one found in humans.
  • Poisoning of LdTop1 imparts a significant level of cytotoxicity to both the Leishmania parasites found in gut of sandfly vectors (promastigotes) as well as the form found in the infected humans (amastigotes) of both the wild type and the antimony-resistant isolates without inducing any lethality to human and mice host cells.

 What is kala-azar or black fever disease?

  • Kala-azar or Visceral Leishmaniasis is a protozoan parasitic disease, spread by sandfly bites.
  • Sandflies are brown in colour and have hairs on their bodies.
  • The flies are infected with the parasite called ‘leishmania donovani’.
  • The vector sandfly is known to live in cracks and crevices of muddy houses, especially in dark and humid corners.
  • According to the WHO, there are 3 main forms of leishmaniases of which kala-azar is the most serious form.
  • In 2020, more than 90 per cent of new cases reported to WHO occurred in 10 countries:
  • Brazil, China, Ethiopia, Eritrea, India, Kenya, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen.
  • Kala-azar is climate-sensitive as it affects the epidemiology in several ways.

Prevalence in India:

The four States endemic for kala-azar in India are:

  1. Bihar (33 districts),
  2. Jharkhand (4 districts),
  3. West Bengal (11 districts), and
  4. Uttar Pradesh (six districts).

Mostly poor socio-economic groups of population primarily living in rural areas are affected

  • The current treatment regimens against kala-azar use formulations that are toxic and induce high levels of drug-resistance.
  • There is only one sandfly vector of Kala-azar in India Phlebotomus aregentipes
  • India is committed to eliminating Kala Azar from the country by 2023.
  • India signed a Tripartite Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Bangladesh and Nepal to achieve Kala-azar elimination from the region.


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