Toxoplasmosis is a widespread infectious disease. Trigger is that Toxoplasma gondii. It is considered the most successful parasite in the world. Millions of people carry it without even knowing it. Humans have been acting as intermediate hosts for centuries.
Toxoplasma reprograms human immune cells
Describes a team from Stockholm University in one Article – CommodityHow the Toxoplasma pathogen controls our immune cells and uses them for itself. The parasite, which is more precise than the arc-shaped protozoan, is actually a cat specialist. Mice, pigs, and sheep usually act as the intermediate host. Apparently, people only entered by mistake.
For a long time it was not clear how Toxoplasma behaves in the human body. The researchers now explain that the pathogen uses a special protein to alter the cell nuclei in the megaspheres. After this change, the immune cells no longer react as they should. The scientists noticed that the modified cells behaved arboreal instead. They migrated very quickly to different organs, and sometimes to the brain. This change in cells makes it possible for the parasite to spread rapidly in the body. Study co-author Antonio Barrajan says:
“It is amazing that the parasite is able to hijack the identity of immune cells in such a clever way. We believe the results may explain why Toxoplasma spreads so efficiently throughout the body when infecting humans and animals.”
The parasite usually enters the body through food
In the wild, toxoplasmosis is usually spread by mice and cats. The mouse is an intermediate host, the cats eat the mice and this is how the pathogen reaches its actual target. Here it reproduces in the intestines of the animal. The rodents, in turn, ingest it through the contaminated feces and start the cycle over.
Through modern human-feline contact, the parasite makes its way into the human body via free-range cats or the consumption of raw meat from intermediate hosts such as sheep, pigs, and cattle. However, people with a healthy immune system are unlikely to notice the pathogen. However, for immunocompromised people or unborn fetuses, it can become life-threatening.