Comparative genomics of Leishmania isolates from Brazil confirms the presence of Leishmania major in the Americas

Laila Viana de Almeida, João Luís Reis-Cunha, Anderson Coqueiro-dos-Santos, Gabriela Flávia Rodrigues-Luís, Rodrigo de Paula Baptista, Soraia de Oliveira Silva, Maria Norma de Melo, Daniella Castanheira Bartholomeu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


Leishmania (Leishmania) major is an important agent of cutaneous leishmaniasis, having as a vector sandflies belonging to the genus Phlebotomus. Although this species has been described as restricted to the Old World, parasites similar to L. major have been isolated from South American patients who have never travelled abroad. These parasites were named “L. major-like”, and several studies have been carried out to characterise them biochemically, molecularly, and biologically. However, the phylogenetic origin of these isolates is still unknown. In the present study we characterised three L. major-like isolates, named BH49, BH121 and BH129, using comparative genomics approaches. We evaluated the presence of gene and segmental duplications/deletions and the presence of aneuploidies that could explain the differences in infectivity observed in the BH49 and BH121 isolates. All isolates presented a pattern of mosaic aneuploidy and gene copy number variation, which are common in the genus Leishmania. Virulence factors such as phosphatases and peptidases were found to have increased gene copy numbers in the infective isolate, which could explain the difference in infectivity previously observed between BH121 and BH49. Phylogenetic analyses revealed that BH49, BH121 and BH129 L. major-like grouped with L. major isolates, and suggest they were imported from the Old World in at least two independent events. We suggest that new epidemiological inquiries should also evaluate L. major infections in South America, to assess the epidemiological importance of this species in the New World.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1047-1057
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal for Parasitology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Nov 2021


  • Chromosome copy number variation
  • Gene copy number variation
  • L. major-like
  • Leishmania major
  • Phylogeny
  • Virulence factors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Parasitology
  • Infectious Diseases


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