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New Findings on Toxoplasmosis

said. They can also pick it up by handling soil or anything that has come in contact with cat feces.

"It's a complex cell just likes ours in terms of metabolism and biochemistry, which makes it a tough nut to crack," White said.

The recently published studies show that molecular interactions between the parasite and host directly regulate the disease's severity, White said. Genes from the parasite also disrupt signals in the host's immune system and control the establishment of life-long chronic disease.

Genetic crosses produced at MSU were critical in the study that discovered that the parasite dumps a protein into the host to dramatically regulate its immune response, White said. Labs in MSU's Department of Veterinary Molecular Biology and MSU's microarray facility helped establish the role of a second pathogen protein that makes one strain of Toxoplasma especially dangerous.

"Type I strains are extremely important to human medicine as they are disproportionately responsible for inflammation of the brain in AIDS patients and for severe congenital disease that is passed from mother to baby," White said.

MSU led the study that was published in PloS, White said. MSU made major contributions to the Nature and Science papers, which were collaborations with Stanford University and Washington University in St. Louis.

The studies give other scientists a model for studying toxoplasmosis or related diseases like malaria and Eimeria, which causes coccidiosis, White added. Eimeria parasites kill chickens and other commercially-raised animals like cattle.

A press release from Washington University said researchers in the future would try to develop more effective treatments against toxoplasmosis by blocking ROP18, the gene largely responsible for making toxoplasmosis so dangerous to humans. The Toxoplasma gondii parasite has approximately 6,000 genes in all. Scientists will also look for other ge
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