Leishmaniasis causes significant morbidity and mortality, constituting an important global health problem for which there are few effective drugs. Given the urgent need to identify a safe and effective Leishmania
vaccine to help prevent the two million new cases of human leishmaniasis worldwide each year, all reasonable efforts to achieve this goal should be made. This includes the use of animal models that are as close to leishmanial infection in humans as is practical and feasible. Old world monkey species (macaques, baboons, mandrills etc.) have the closest evolutionary relatedness to humans among the approachable animal models. The Asian rhesus macaques ( Macaca mulatta
) are quite susceptible to leishmanial infection, develop a human-like disease, exhibit antibodies to Leishmania
and parasite-specific T-cell mediated immune responses both in vivo and in vitro, and can be protected effectively by vaccination. Results from macaque vaccine studies could also prove useful in guiding the design of human vaccine trials. This review summarizes our current knowledge on this topic and proposes potential approaches that may result in the more effective use of the macaque model to maximize its potential to help the development of an effective vaccine for human leishmaniasis.