We are studying how cells protect themselves against infection by the parasite Toxoplasma gondii.
Up to a third of people have the parasite Toxoplasma gondii living in their blood. In some cases it causes a serious disease called toxoplasmosis, but most people infected with the parasite won’t show any signs of infection or illness.
We want to find out how Toxoplasma gondii maintains a balance between infecting host cells to cause disease and ‘lying low’ to avoid being detected and destroyed by the immune system. For example, we know that infected cells can call in ‘killer’ immune cells, and they can also activate protective mechanisms that stop the parasite from multiplying or kill it. But despite these protective mechanisms, Toxoplasma gondii sometimes manages to cause serious infections, causing a variety of short- and long-term health problems.
We are working to understand more about how host cells defend themselves against Toxoplasma gondii and what happens when these protections fail. We are also investigating how the parasite avoids immune defences by creating a special ‘pocket’ inside the cell which it can multiply.
We hope that the insights from our research will lead to new ways to prevent and treat infection by Toxoplasma gondii and other parasites.