Leishmaniasis is a vector-borne disease caused by Leishmania parasites, which cause a range of clinical manifestations in man. These are didactically classified into cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL), the most common form of the disease, and visceral leishmaniasis (VL), the life-threatening form. There are so far no vaccines approved for humans. Conventional drugs pose limitations ranging from low efficacy and high cost to systemic toxicity. Low efficacy derives in part from difficult drug access to the parasites, which rides themselves inside macrophage phagosomes. This prompts to high dosage, with consequent increased toxicity. Difficult intracellular drug access can be overcome with nanomedicines such as biocompatible lipid and polymeric nanoparticles that can be phagocytosed by the infected macrophages. Besides cell membranes, appropriate drug nanostructuring may allow tissue barrier penetration and drug administration through higher compliance routes such as skin and intestine, in contrast to the usual intravenous and intramuscular routes. In general, CL and VL are both treated with toxic systemic injections, disregard of disease severity. This chapter will review and discuss studies with nanomedicines that have reached the market such as liposomal amphotericin B for intravenous administration, and innovative preclinical studies aiming at developing effective cutaneous and oral drugs with focus on CL.
Part of the book: Leishmaniases as Re-emerging Diseases