Important new clues about how a common parasite found in cat faeces invades the human brain have been revealed by a team of scientists, using cutting-edge infrared microspectroscopy analysis.
Up to a third of the world’s population is infected with Toxoplasma gondii – a microscopic, single-celled parasite which can be passed from animals to humans through ingestion of poorly cooked meat or exposure to infected cat faeces.
The parasite can cause toxoplasmosis – a potentially dangerous infection, particularly in pregnant women and immunocompromised individuals (e.g. AIDS). It also causes eye problems and has even been linked with schizophrenia.
The research is front page story on the Royal Society of Chemistry’s journal, Analytical Method.
Widespread worldwide infection
Parasitologist, Dr Hany Elsheikha, from the University of Nottingham’s School of Veterinary Medicine and Science, said: “Toxoplasma gondii is an extremely nasty parasite and although it can be latent in many people with no obvious ill effects, it can be life-changing and life-threatening in certain cases. At the moment there is no vaccine and the anti-parasite drug arsenal is limited so we were very keen to investigate new potential avenues for early detection and better treatment for patients infected with this deadly parasite.
“Interaction between host cell and Toxoplasma gondii parasite is a spectacular feat of bioengineering, wherein complex networks of metabolic pathways are hijacked by the parasite to promote its own growth, which is amazingly orchestrated. The pathways and molecules identified in our study play key roles in host cell physiology and responses to challenges by this parasite." ...follow the link to read the article in full on the University of Nottingham website