Defining the structural basis of surface antigen glycoprotein mediated virulence in Toxoplasma gondii

Toxoplasmosis is a serious human pathogen carried by about one-third of the population. People develop toxoplasmosis either after ingesting undercooked meat that contains T. gondii cysts, or by coming into contact with cat feces from an infected animal. Once infected, healthy adults initially show a range of temporary flu-like symptoms; however, while these symptoms pass, the parasite Toxoplasma gondii remains in the body for life, with limited drug treatment available. Infection during pregnancy can cause miscarriage, neonatal death and a variety of fetal abnormalities, including developmental delays. It is also harmful to those whose immune systems are compromised, such as those with HIV/AIDS, cancer or who have had an organ transplant. Very little is known about how T. gondii causes disease. Dr. Martin Boulanger is studying the structure of host-pathogen interactions to determine the activities that allow T. gondii to attach to and invade human cells. With this information, treatments can be developed to prevent or manage Toxoplasmosis. This work will also apply to better understanding of other parasite-caused disease such as malaria and cryptosporidiosis.