A new model for studying the toxoplasmosis pathogen
"Our system has already proven very useful in its current form," says Dominique Soldati-Favre, "but it needs to be further developed to obtain validation and become widely applicable."
About one in three people in Switzerland have chronic Toxoplasma gondii infection, the parasite often being transmitted by domestic cats. In most cases, fortunately, it is harmless, but in people with a weakened immune system the pathogen can cause toxoplasmosis. Primary infection can also be dangerous for pregnant women, potentially leading to congenital infection, premature birth or abortion.
To study the tissue cysts responsible for chronic infection in the laboratory and test new inhibitory agents, the teams led by Dominique Soldati-Favre of the University of Geneva and by Martin Blume and Frank Seeber at the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin have developed an in vitro model based on human muscle cells which they hope will replace the animal model. "Our system has already proven very useful in its current form," says Dominique Soldati-Favre, "but it needs to be further developed to obtain validation and become widely applicable." The teams also want to use a ‘mini-intestine’ to study how this food-borne disease is transmitted.
"Every step along the route to discovering drugs with new mechanisms of action will have a huge impact on society," Soldati explains.
Optimization and validation of mature Toxoplasma gondii tissue cysts generated in vitro