Malnutrition alters the innate immune response and increases early visceralization following Leishmania donovani infection

G. M. Anstead, B. Chandrasekar, W. Zhao, J. Yang, L. E. Perez, P. C. Melby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

109 Scopus citations


Malnutrition is a risk factor for the development of visceral leishmaniasis. However, the immunological basis for this susceptibility is unknown. We have developed a mouse model to study the effect of malnutrition on innate immunity and early visceralization following Leishmania donovani infection. Three deficient diets were studied, including 6, 3, or 1% protein; these diets were also deficient in iron, zinc, and calories. The control diet contained 17% protein, was zinc and iron sufficient, and was provided ab libitum. Three days after infection with L. donovani promastigotes, the total extradermal (lymph nodes, liver, and spleen) and skin parasite burdens were equivalent in the malnourished (3% protein) and control mice, but in the malnourished group, a greater percentage (39.8 and 4.0%, respectively; P = 0.009) of the extradermal parasite burden was contained in the spleen and liver. The comparable levels of parasites in the footpads in the two diet groups and the higher lymph node parasite burdens in the well-nourished mice indicated that the higher visceral parasite burdens in the malnourished mice were not due to a deficit in local parasite killing but to a failure of lymph node barrier function. Lymph node cells from the malnourished, infected mice produced increased levels of prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) and decreased levels of interleukin-10. Inducible nitric oxide synthase activity was significantly lower in the spleen and liver of the malnourished mice. Thus, malnutrition causes a failure of lymph node barrier function after L. donovani infection, which may be related to excessive production of PGE2 and decreased levels of IL-10 and nitric oxide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)4709-4718
Number of pages10
JournalInfection and immunity
Issue number8
StatePublished - 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases


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