The European Commission has granted funding for an Innovative Training Network within the Marie Curie-Horizon 2020 programme, whose goal is to form the next generation of scientists that will contribute to the control of leishmaniasis. The EUROLEISH-NET project, which will be coordinated by CRESIB, ISGlobal's research centre, is multi- and inter-disciplinary since it includes basic, clinical and translational research to propose integrated solutions in the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of leishmaniasis worldwide. Nine public and private European excellence centres will host 15 young researchers from different backgrounds, including molecular biology, epidemiology, medicine, veterinary and health economy. In addition, 19 institutions or companies in and outside Europe will contribute to the formation of the young trainees by offering research visits and know how.
An important aspect of the Project will be the selection of the students developing the 15 PhD projects that include areas such as drug development, vaccines, diagnostic tools, genetic population studies, vector control and integrated control programmes. The selected candidates will obtain a three-year contract, during which mobility between the 28 institutions in the network will be encouraged in order to enhance synergies between the different participants.
Leishmaniasis is considered a neglected infectious disease by the World Health Organization (WHO) and causes an estimated 1.3 million new cases and between 20,000 and 30,000 deaths every year. The disease is caused by a unicellular parasite of the Leishmania genus, is transmitted by the sand fly bite and affects both humans and domestic animals. Although it is globally distributed in South America, Africa, Asia and Europe, it is particularly prevalent among poor communities of developing countries since the major risk factors are poverty, malnutrition, population mobility, environmental changes and climate change. It is the only endemic neglected tropical disease in Europe, where it is mainly a veterinary problem but represents a public health risk.
Leishmaniasis can be treated and cured. However, global control of the disease requires the development of new strategies and tools that go from the laboratory to the bedside and the community. This is precisely the objective of EUROLEISH-NET.