toxoplasma research community

Toxoplasma Research Community

Published by wjsullivan on 28 November 2006 - 3:21pm

Welcome, I am Bill Sullivan, the online leader for The Synaptic Leap’s Toxoplasma research community. You can find out more about my work at the laboratory web site.

Why Toxoplasma is important

Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan (single-celled) parasite that has permanently infected tens of millions of people in the world.  A normal immune response typically controls infection promptly, but the parasite persists as a latent cyst within host tissues.  Tissue cysts can form in brain, heart, and skeletal muscle tissue.  If immunity should become compromised due to disease (such as AIDS) or immunosuppressive therapies (e.g., cancer chemotherapy or organ transplantation), the acute stage of infection may recrudesce.  Thus, Toxoplasma is a significant opportunisitc pathogen.  However, there are instances when Toxoplasma threatens normal, healthy individuals as well.  For example, Toxoplasma can cause abortion or congenital birth defects; this may occur if a woman becomes infected for the first time during pregnancy.  Additionally, emerging studies have demonstrated intriguing alterations in host organism behavior upon infection, or correlations with neurological disorders such as schizophrenia.

Toxoplasma infection may be picked up from cats (the definitive host) or contaminated food/water.  People at significant risk (HIV+ or pregnant individuals) should cook meat thoroughly, wash vegetables, and avoid cat litter boxes and gardening.