Current Tropical Medicine Reports

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 250–255 | Cite as

Alterations in Host Lipid Metabolism Produced During Visceral Leishmaniasis Infections

  • Carlo R. MartínezEmail author
  • Cristian J. Ruiz
Metabolism in Tropical Medicine (K Schlosser Montes, Section Editor)
Part of the following topical collections:
  1. Topical Collection on Metabolism in Tropical Medicine


Purpose of Review

Leishmania is an obligate intracellular parasite that depends on the host’s own lipid reservoirs to ensure its survival. The use of fats ranges from energy obtention to evasion of immune response, so this would alter the host’s lipid metabolism somehow. This article aims to review lipid metabolism of both parasite and host, and how the former affects the latter.

Recent Findings

Leishmania uses the host’s cholesterol to ensure macrophage phagocytosis and evade immune response. Additionally, the host’s lipid bodies have key roles in disease progression and development of the parasite inside the cell. This induces changes in the patient’s serum lipid profile like hypertriglyceridemia and low HDL levels.


Changes in the lipid profile and metabolism in both parasite and host during development of the disease depend on the presence of lipid bodies. Further research is required to fully understand the relationship between the interactions between lipid metabolism of host and parasite, immune response, and the prognosis of the disease (Fig. 1).


Lipid metabolism in leishmaniasis Lipid bodies Visceral leishmaniasis Parasite metabolism 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights and Informed Consent

This article does not contain any studies with human or animal subjects performed by any of the authors.

Glossary of Key Terms


Apolipoprotein A1


Apolipoprotein B


Cutaneous leishmaniasis


Endoplasmic reticulum


Extracellular vesicles


Gas chromatography-mass spectrometry




High density lipoprotein


β-Hydroxy β-methylglutaryl-CoA


Lipid bodies


Lipid droplets


Low density lipoprotein


Lipoprotein a


Micro ribonucleic acids








Parasitophorous vacuoles






Tumor necrosis factor


Visceral leishmaniasis


Very low density lipoprotein


Papers of particular interest, published recently, have been highlighted as: • Of importance •• Of major importance

  1. 1.
    Rabhi S, Rabhi I, Bernadette T, Piquemal D, Regnault B, Goyard S, et al. Lipid Droplet Formation, Their Localization and Dynamics during Leishmania major Macrophage infection. PLoS One. 2016;11(2):e0148640. Scholar
  2. 2.
    CDC. Leishmaniasis. 2017. Available from:
  3. 3.
    Costa-Barbossa F, Viera T, dos Santos M, dos Campos N, Ribeiro K, Cronemberg A, et al. Extracellular vesicles released by Leishmania (Leishmania) amazonensis promote disease progression and induce the production of different cytokines in macrophages and B-1 cells. Front Microbiol. 2018;9.
  4. 4.
    McConville M, Naderer T. Metabolic pathways required for the intracellular survival of Leishmania. Annu Rev Microbiol. 2011;6:543–61. Scholar
  5. 5.
    Carroll K, Butel J, Morse S, Mietzner T. Parasitology: blood and tissue protozoan infections. In: Jawetz, Melnick & Adelberg’s Medical Microbiology. New York. 2016.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Organización Panamericana de la Salud. Leishmaniasis: Informe Epidemiológico de las Américas. Informe de Leishmaniasis N7: 2019.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Semini G, Paape D, Paterou A, Schroeder J, Barrios-Llerena M, Aebischer T. Changes to cholesterol trafficking in macrophages by Leishmania parasites infection. Wiley Microbiol Open. 2015;6:469. Scholar
  8. 8.
    Gosh J, Das S, Guba R, Gosh D, Naskar K, Das A, et al. Hyperlipidemia offers protection against Leishmania donovani infection: role of membrane cholesterol. J Lipid Res. 2012;53:2560–72. Scholar
  9. 9.
    Zhang O, Wilson MC, Xu W, Hsu FF, Turk J, Kuhlmann FM, et al. Degradation of host sphingomyelin is essential for Leishmania virulence. PLoS Pathog. 2009;5(12)):e1000692.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Naderer T, Ellis MA, Sernee MF, De Souza DP, Curtis J, Handman E, et al. Virulence of Leishmania major in macrophages and mice requires the gluconeogenic enzyme fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2006;103(14):5502–7.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Hart DT, Coombs GH. Leishmania mexicana: Energy metabolism of amastigotes and promastigotes. Exp Parasitol. 1982;54(3):397–409.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    •• Filippas-Ntekouan S, Liberopoulos E, Elisaf M. Lipid testing in infectious diseases: possible role in diagnosis and prognosis. Infection. 2017;45:575–88. Filippas-Ntekouan. et al.provides important information about possible diagnostic indicators of leishmaniasis and their relationship with lipid metabolism of the infected host. CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Zhang K, Beverley SM. Phospholipid and sphingolipid metabolism in Leishmania. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2010;170(2):1–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    •• Biagiotti M, Dominguez S, Yamout N, Zufferey R. Lipidomics and anti-trypanosomatid chemotherapy. Clin Transl Med. 2017;6(1). Biagiotti, Dominguez, Yamout and Zufferey wrote a review that establishes the utility of lipidomics to identify new lipids and determine changes in the lipid profile between Trypanosomatids.):27.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Roberts CW, McLeod R, Rice DW, Ginger M, Chance ML, Goad LJ. Fatty acid and sterol metabolism: potential antimicrobial targets in apicomplexan and trypanosomatid parasitic protozoa. Mol Biochem Parasitol. 2003;126(2):129–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    • Yao C, Wilson ME. Dynamics of sterol synthesis during development of Leishmania spp. parasites to their virulent form. Parasit Vectors. 2016;9(1):1–12. and Wilson describe the results of a GC-MS analysis to determine the changes in sterol synthesis during metacyclogenesis ofLeishmania infantumparasites. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Bouazizi-Ben Messaoud H, Guichard M, Lawton P, Delton I, Azzouz-Maache S. Changes in lipid and fatty acid composition during intramacrophagic transformation of Leishmania donovani complex promastigotes into amastigotes. Lipids. 2017;52(5):433–41.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. 18.
    Rodríguez N, Lockard R, Turcotte E, Araujo-Santos T, Bozza P, Borges V, et al. Lipid bodies accumulation in Leishmania infantum-infected C57BL/6 macrophages. Parasite Immunol. 2017;39:8. Scholar
  19. 19.
    Lal C, Verma R, Verma N, Siddiqui N, Rabidas N, Pandey K, et al. Hypertriglyceridemia: a possible diagnostic marker of disease severity in visceral leishmaniasis. Infection. 2015;44:39–45. Scholar
  20. 20.
    Liberopoulos E, Apostolou F, Gazi I, Kostara C, Bairaktari E, Tselepis A, et al. Visceral leishmaniasis is associated with marked changes in serum lipid profile. Eur J Clin Investig. 2013;44:719–27. Scholar
  21. 21.
    • Lima A, Teixeira L, da Silva K, Menezes C, Bozza P. Lipid droplet, a key player in host-parasite interactions. Front Immunol. 2018;9. al.explains the dynamics of the lipid bodies and the mechanisms of formation during infectious disease such as leishmaniasis.
  22. 22.
    Bozza P, D’Avila H, Almeida P, Magalhâes K, Almeida C, Maya-Monteiro C. Lipid droplets in host-pathogen interactions. Clin Lipidol. 2009;4(6):791–807. Scholar
  23. 23.
    Gosh J, Bose M, Roy S, Bhattacharyya S. Leishmania donovani targets Dicer1 to downregulate miR-122, lower serum cholesterol and facilitate murine liver infection. Cell Host Microbe. 2013;13:277–88. Scholar
  24. 24.
    Paswan R, Bimal S, Kumari A, Sinha P, Rabidas V, Pandey K, et al. Reduced high density lipoprotein concentration modulates increased interleukin-10 and decreased interferon-gamma in visceral Leishmaniasis patients. 2016;4:2.
  25. 25.
    Nelson DL, Cox MM. Cholesterol, steroids and isoprenoids: biosynthesis, regulation and transport. In: Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry. New York: W.H. Freeman; 2017.Google Scholar
  26. 26.
    Bansal D, Singh H, Sehgal R. Role of cholesterol in parasitic infections. Lipids Health Dis. 2005;4:10. Scholar
  27. 27.
    Chakraborty D, Banerjee S, Sen A, Banerjee K, Das P, Roy S. Leishmania donovani affects antigen presentation of macrophage by disrupting lipid rafts. J Immunol. 2005;175:3214–24. Scholar
  28. 28.
    Feingold K, Grunfeld C. Lipids: a key player in the battle between the host and microorganisms. J Lipid Res. 2005;53:2560–72. Scholar
  29. 29.
    Descoteaux A, Moradin N, Arango G. Leishmania dices away cholesterol for survival. Cell Host Microbe. 2013;13. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Universidad del Valle de GuatemalaGuatemala CityGuatemala
  2. 2.Universidad Francisco MarroquínGuatemala CityGuatemala

Personalised recommendations