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July 18, 2016
In the July 14 edition of Scientific Reports (Nature), 39 researchers from 14 leading institutions in the United States, United Kingdom and France suggest novel approaches that could hasten the development of better medications for people suffering from toxoplasmosis. This chronic, currently incurable infection, caused by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii, infects the brain and eye of as many as 2 billion people worldwide.
Their findings provide conceptual and practical roadmaps for improving the efficacy and reducing toxicity of available medicines. They also offer insights into the biology of T. gondii, suggest critical molecular targets for new medicines, and offer renewed hope for the speedy development of much-needed curative medicines for those with toxoplasmosis—and potentially malaria.
The researchers describe three significant steps forward:
The team's findings matter because T. gondii is the most frequent cause of infection leading to destruction of the back of the eye for persons in most countries in the world. It is most damaging for infants and children who acquire infection from their mothers during gestation, but it can also cause life-threatening infections in those with compromised immune systems, such as those with cancer, autoimmune disease or AIDS. Highly virulent strains of Toxoplasma are also now known to cause lethal disease, especially in South America
A large data analysis at the University of Chicago by this team, published June 26, 2016, in Clinical Infectious Diseases, found that the estimated annual incidence over the last ten years in the US was 6,137 people, based on diagnostic codes for toxoplasmosis. An editorial in the journal notes that these data "are the strongest to date to indicate that toxoplasmosis represents a significant disease burden in the United States."