We evaluated the importance of neutrophils in the development of chronic lesions caused by L. Viannia spp. using the hamster as experimental model of American Cutaneous Leishmaniasis (ACL). Neutrophils infiltrated the lesion within the first six hours post-infection. Inhibition of this early infiltration using a polyclonal antibody or cyclophosphamide was associated with transient parasite control but the protective effect vanished when lesions became clinically apparent. At lesion onset (approximately 10 days p.i.), there was an increased proportion of both uninfected and infected macrophages, and subsequently a second wave of neutrophils infiltrated the lesion (after 19 days p.i.) This second neutrophil infiltration was associated with lesion necrosis and ulceration (R2 = 0.75) and maximum parasite burden. Intradermal delivery of N-formylmethionyl-leucyl-phenylalanine (fMLP), aimed to increase neutrophil infiltration, resulted in larger lesions with marked necrosis and higher parasite burden than in mock treated groups (p<0.001 each). In contrast, reduced neutrophil infiltration via cyclophosphamide-mediated depletion led to more benign lesions and lower parasite loads compared to controls (p<0.001 each). Neutrophils of the second wave expressed significantly lower GM-CSF, reactive oxygen species and nitric oxide than those of the first wave, suggesting that they had less efficient anti-leishmania activity. However, there was increased inflammatory cytokines and expression of neutrophil proteases (myeloperoxidase, cathepsin G and elastase) in lesions during the second wave of neutrophil infiltration compared with the levels reached during the first wave (6h p.i.). This suggests that augmented neutrophil proteases and inflammatory cytokines during the secondary wave of neutrophils could contribute to skin inflammation, ulceration and necrosis in ACL. The overall results indicate that neutrophils were unable to clear the infection in this model, and that the second wave of neutrophils played an important role in the severity of ACL.
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