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Parasites that cause diseases such as Leishmaniasis and African sleeping sickness live inside the human body for months or even years, constantly dodging a gradually tiring immune system.

So far, vaccine developers have drawn a blank in the fight against such parasites. Part of the problem is that many parasites are able to rapidly shuffle the surface proteins that the human immune system uses to recognise intruders.

In this article, Carina Dennis reports how some scientists are now plotting an alternative line of attack: they are trying to get the immune system to respond not to proteins, but to the complex sugars that parasites carry on their surfaces.

Link to Nature article

Reference: Nature 423, 580 (2003)
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