Trypanosomatid infections are an important public health threat affecting many low-income countries across the tropics, particularly in the Americas. Trypanosomatids can infect many vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant species and play an important role as human pathogens. Among these clinically relevant pathogens are species from the genera Leishmania and Trypanosoma. Mixed trypanosomatid infections remain a largely unexplored phenomenon. Herein, we describe the application of an amplicon-based next-generation sequencing (NGS) assay to detect and identify trypanosomatid species in mammalian reservoirs, human patients, and sand fly vectors throughout regions of Leishmania endemicity. Sixty-five samples from different departments of Colombia, including two samples from Venezuela, were analyzed: 49 samples from cutaneous leishmaniasis (CL) patients, 8 from sand flies, 2 from domestic reservoirs (Canis familiaris), and 6 from wild reservoirs (Phyllostomus hastatus). DNA from each sample served to identify the presence of trypanosomatids through conventional PCR using heat shock protein 70 (HSP70) gene as the target. PCR products underwent sequencing by Sanger sequencing and NGS, and trypanosomatid species were identified by using BLASTn against a reference database built from trypanosomatid-derived HSP70 sequences. The alpha and beta diversity indexes of amplicon sequence variants were calculated for each group. The results revealed the presence of mixed infections with more than two Leishmania species in 34% of CL samples analyzed. Trypanosoma cruzi was identified in samples from wild reservoirs, as well as in sand fly vectors. Coinfection events with three different Leishmania species were identified in domestic reservoirs. These findings depose the traditional paradigm of leishmaniasis as being a single-species- driven infection and redraw the choreography of host-pathogen interaction in the context of multiparasitism. Further research is needed to decipher how coinfections may influence disease progression. This knowledge is key to developing an integrated approach for diagnosis and treatment.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- General Immunology and Microbiology
- Microbiology (medical)
- Cell Biology
- Infectious Diseases