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Stanford discovery may help predict when toxoplasma can be deadly

Based on the DNA sequences, they could determine the proteins involved.

From 140 candidate proteins identified in the initial screen, they focused on those with qualities logically involved in differing levels of virulence, such as high variability of the sequence and the ability to be secreted from the organism to enter the host. This led them to two particularly compelling proteins - ROP16 and ROP18. Both are protein kinases, molecules that are used in the transmission of cellular messages. "If a parasite needs to co-opt a host cell for its own purposes, there is no better way than to introduce a kinase that can completely alter the entire physiology of that host cell," said Boothroyd.

The findings may play a role in helping pregnant women who become infected for the first time with the parasite. If doctors can test whether the women have one of the more virulent strains, they can then better assess the risks to the fetuses. The group's further exploration of the Toxoplasma virulence process may also have implications for immune-system modulating drugs that could specifically dampen the effects of toxoplasmosis.
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Source:Stanford University Medical Center


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