Drug Search for Leishmaniasis

Project Status and Findings:  

Information about this project is provided on the web pages below and by the project scientists on the Drug Search for Leishmaniasis website. If you have comments or questions about this project, please visit the Drug Search for Leishmaniasis forum.


The mission of Drug Search for Leishmaniasis is to identify potential molecule candidates that could possibly be developed into treatments for Leishmaniasis. The extensive computing power of World Community Grid will be used to perform computer simulations of the interactions between millions of chemical compounds and certain target proteins. This will help find the most promising compounds that may lead to effective treatments for the disease.


Leishmaniasis is one of the most neglected tropical diseases in the world. Each year this disease infects more than two million people in 97 countries. To date, there are no available vaccines to prevent the disease, in spite of multiple research efforts. Leishmaniasis is caused by a protozoan parasite (genus Leishmania) transmitted between human and animal hosts by female sand flies. One form of the disease, the "visceral" form caused by Leishmania infantum in America, mainly affects children, who can die if adequate treatment is not provided promptly. Existing control measures rely upon drug therapy, insect control and education in the affected communities. However, the number of human cases continues to increase in tropical countries such as Bangladesh, India, Sudan, Ethiopia, Brazil, Colombia, Peru and many others.

The classical treatments for all forms of Leishmaniasis can cause severe side effects, including death. Furthermore, drug resistant parasites are causing major problems in many endemic countries. For these reasons, there is an urgent need for new, safe and inexpensive anti-Leishmania drug compounds.


A software program called VINA from The Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, will be used to perform the virtual chemistry experiments. These virtual experiments will search to find which of millions of drug compounds might be able to disable particular proteins, essential for the parasite's survival. Screening for the best potential drug compounds is an early step in the process of developing effective treatments for the disease. With enough computing power, this screening can be done much more quickly than using conventional laboratory experiments. However, existing computer facilities available to the researchers would require approximately 120 years to perform the screening. The power of World Community Grid can reduce the time required to less than one year. Information about the best candidate compounds will be published by the scientists, and this information will be available in the public domain for other scientists to build upon with their research. Further laboratory work using the best candidates identified by this project could lead to the development of better drugs to fight Leishmaniasis.