The neuroimmunological niche of Toxoplasma infection
The primary focus of the lab is the immune response in the brain following Toxoplasma gondii infection. This is a common parasitic infection of many mammals including humans where prevalence is 10-30% in the USA and up to 80% in parts of Europe and South America. Infection with this parasite leads to an acute systemic inflammatory response that is controlled resulting in a chronic phase of infection where the parasite is maintained predominantly as a slow replicating form in the CNS. In most cases this results in no overt pathology however in the absence of an appropriate immune response, the parasite will reactivate leading to Toxoplasmic encephalitis (TE) a disease that is often fatal if left untreated.
Thus, T. gondii infection is a rare example of a finely tuned immune response in the brain where there is a balance between control of the parasite and immunopathology. Understanding the mechanisms that control this balance may improve our ability to control an inappropriate immune response in the CNS.