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Concept: Coccidia


During acute infection in human and animal hosts, the obligate intracellular protozoan Toxoplasma gondii infects a variety of cell types, including leukocytes. Poised to respond to invading pathogens, dendritic cells (DC) may also be exploited by T. gondii for spread in the infected host. Here, we report that human and mouse myeloid DC possess functional γ-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors and the machinery for GABA biosynthesis and secretion. Shortly after T. gondii infection (genotypes I, II and III), DC responded with enhanced GABA secretion in vitro. We demonstrate that GABA activates GABA(A) receptor-mediated currents in T. gondii-infected DC, which exhibit a hypermigratory phenotype. Inhibition of GABA synthesis, transportation or GABA(A) receptor blockade in T. gondii-infected DC resulted in impaired transmigration capacity, motility and chemotactic response to CCL19 in vitro. Moreover, exogenous GABA or supernatant from infected DC restored the migration of infected DC in vitro. In a mouse model of toxoplasmosis, adoptive transfer of infected DC pre-treated with GABAergic inhibitors reduced parasite dissemination and parasite loads in target organs, e.g. the central nervous system. Altogether, we provide evidence that GABAergic signaling modulates the migratory properties of DC and that T. gondii likely makes use of this pathway for dissemination. The findings unveil that GABA, the principal inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain, has activation functions in the immune system that may be hijacked by intracellular pathogens.

Concepts: Coccidia, Apicomplexa, Rat, Bacteria, Toxoplasma gondii, Toxoplasmosis, Nervous system, Immune system


The family of cysteine rich proteins of the oocyst wall (COWPs) originally described in Cryptosporidium can also be found in Toxoplasma gondii (TgOWPs) localised to the oocyst wall as well. Genome sequence analysis of Eimeria suggests that these proteins may also exist in this genus and led us to the assumption that these proteins may also play a role in oocyst wall formation.

Concepts: Toxoplasma gondii, Coccidia, Apicomplexa


Symptomatic forms of toxoplasmosis are a serious public health problem and occur in around 10-20% of the infected people. Aiming to improve the molecular diagnosis of symptomatic toxoplasmosis in Brazilian patients, this study evaluated the performance of real time PCR (qPCR) testing two primer sets (B1 and REP-529) in detecting Toxoplasma gondii DNA. The methodology was assayed in 807 clinical samples with known clinical diagnosis, ELISA, and conventional PCR (cPCR) results in a 9-year period. All samples were from patients with clinical suspicion of several features of toxoplasmosis. According to the minimum detection limit curve (in CT), REP-529 had greater sensitivity to detect T. gondii DNA than B1. Both primer sets were retrospectively evaluated using 515 DNA from different clinical samples. The 122 patients without toxoplasmosis provided high specificity (REP-529, 99.2% and B1, 100%). From the 393 samples with positive ELISA, 146 had clinical diagnosis of toxoplasmosis and positive cPCR. REP-529 and B1 sensitivities were 95.9% and 83.6%, respectively. Comparison of REP-529 and B1 performances was further analyzed prospectively in 292 samples. Thus, from a total of 807 DNA analyzed, 217 (26.89%) had positive PCR with, at least one primer set and symptomatic toxoplasmosis confirmed by clinical diagnosis. REP-529 was positive in 97.23%, whereas B1 amplified only 78.80%. After comparing several samples in a Brazilian referral laboratory, this study concluded that REP-529 primer set had better performance than B1 one. These observations were based after using cases with defined clinical diagnosis, ELISA, and cPCR.

Concepts: Coccidia, Sensitivity and specificity, Molecular biology, Polymerase chain reaction, Apicomplexa, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii


Cyclic GMP (cGMP)-dependent protein kinase (protein kinase G [PKG]) is essential for microneme secretion, motility, invasion, and egress in apicomplexan parasites, However, the separate roles of two isoforms of the kinase that are expressed by some apicomplexans remain uncertain. Despite having identical regulatory and catalytic domains, PKG(I) is plasma membrane associated whereas PKG(II) is cytosolic in Toxoplasma gondii To determine whether these isoforms are functionally distinct or redundant, we developed an auxin-inducible degron (AID) tagging system for conditional protein depletion in T. gondii By combining AID regulation with genome editing strategies, we determined that PKG(I) is necessary and fully sufficient for PKG-dependent cellular processes. Conversely, PKG(II) is functionally insufficient and dispensable in the presence of PKG(I) The difference in functionality mapped to the first 15 residues of PKG(I), containing a myristoylated Gly residue at position 2 that is critical for membrane association and PKG function. Collectively, we have identified a novel requirement for cGMP signaling at the plasma membrane and developed a new system for examining essential proteins in T. gondiiIMPORTANCEToxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular apicomplexan parasite and important clinical and veterinary pathogen that causes toxoplasmosis. Since apicomplexans can only propagate within host cells, efficient invasion is critically important for their life cycles. Previous studies using chemical genetics demonstrated that cyclic GMP signaling through protein kinase G (PKG)-controlled invasion by apicomplexan parasites. However, these studies did not resolve functional differences between two compartmentalized isoforms of the kinase. Here we developed a conditional protein regulation tool to interrogate PKG isoforms in T. gondii We found that the cytosolic PKG isoform was largely insufficient and dispensable. In contrast, the plasma membrane-associated isoform was necessary and fully sufficient for PKG function. Our studies identify the plasma membrane as a key location for PKG activity and provide a broadly applicable system for examining essential proteins in T. gondii.

Concepts: Molecular biology, Coccidia, Cell, Signal transduction, Toxoplasmosis, Cell membrane, Toxoplasma gondii, Apicomplexa


Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a protozoan parasite present in around a third of the human population. Infected individuals are commonly asymptomatic, though recent reports have suggested that infection might influence aspects of the host’s behavior. In particular, Toxoplasma infection has been linked to schizophrenia, suicide attempt, differences in aspects of personality and poorer neurocognitive performance. However, these studies are often conducted in clinical samples or convenience samples.

Concepts: Coccidia, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii


Cryptosporidiosis is a nationally notifiable gastrointestinal illness caused by parasitic protozoa of the genus Cryptosporidium, which can cause profuse, watery diarrhea that can last up to 2-3 weeks in immunocompetent patients and can lead to life-threatening wasting and malabsorption in immunocompromised patients. Fecal-oral transmission of Cryptosporidium oocysts, the parasite’s infectious life stage, occurs via ingestion of contaminated recreational water, drinking water, or food, or following contact with infected persons or animals, particularly preweaned bovine calves (1). The typical incubation period is 2-10 days. Since 2004, the annual incidence of nationally notified cryptosporidiosis has risen approximately threefold in the United States (1). Cryptosporidium also has emerged as the leading etiology of nationally notified recreational water-associated outbreaks, particularly those associated with aquatic facilities (i.e., physical places that contain one or more aquatic venues [e.g., pools] and support infrastructure) (2). As of February 24, 2017, a total of 13 (54%) of 24 states reporting provisional data detected at least 32 aquatic facility-associated cryptosporidiosis outbreaks in 2016. In comparison, 20 such outbreaks were voluntarily reported to CDC via the National Outbreak Reporting System for 2011, 16 for 2012, 13 for 2013, and 16 for 2014. This report highlights cryptosporidiosis outbreaks associated with aquatic facilities in three states (Alabama, Arizona, and Ohio) in 2016. This report also illustrates the use of CryptoNet, the first U.S. molecularly based surveillance system for a parasitic disease, to further elucidate Cryptosporidium chains of transmission and cryptosporidiosis epidemiology. CryptoNet data can be used to optimize evidence-based prevention strategies. Not swimming when ill with diarrhea is key to preventing and controlling aquatic facility-associated cryptosporidiosis outbreaks (

Concepts: United States, U.S. state, Apicomplexa, Report, Coccidia, AIDS, Water, Epidemiology


Cryptosporidial enteritis, a diarrheal infection of the small intestine caused by the apicomplexan protozoa Cryptosporidium, is infrequently recognized in transplant recipients from developed countries.

Concepts: Coccidia, Organ transplant


Toxoplasma gondii, Cryptosporidium parvum, and Giardia duodenalis are human waterborne protozoa. These worldwide parasites had been detected in various watercourses as recreational, surface, drinking, river, and seawater. As of today, water protozoa detection was based on large water filtration and on sample concentration. Another tool like aquatic invertebrate parasitism could be used for sanitary and environmental biomonitoring. In fact, organisms like filter feeders could already filtrate and concentrate protozoa directly in their tissues in proportion to ambient concentration. So molluscan shellfish can be used as a bioindicator of protozoa contamination level in a site since they were sedentary. Nevertheless, only a few researches had focused on nonspecific parasitism like protozoa infection on aquatic invertebrates. Objectives of this review are twofold: Firstly, an overview of protozoa in worldwide water was presented. Secondly, current knowledge of protozoa parasitism on aquatic invertebrates was detailed and the lack of data of their biological impact was pointed out.

Concepts: Mollusca, Toxoplasmosis, Cryptosporidium parvum, Toxoplasma gondii, Invertebrate, Parasitology, Apicomplexa, Coccidia


Cystoisospora belli is an opportunistic protozoan that causes human cystoisosporiasis, an infection characterized by diarrhea, steatorrhea, abdominal pain, fever, and weight loss. The lack of animal models susceptible to C. belli, and the difficulty in obtaining clinical samples with fair amounts of oocysts have limited the research pertaining to the basic biology of this parasite. This study aimed to describe the ultrastructure of endogenous stages of C. belli in Monkey Rhesus Kidney Cells (MK2) and Human Ileocecal Adenocarcinoma cells (HCT-8). Zoites of C. belli exhibited typical morphological features of coccidia, which included a trilaminar pellicle, an apical complex formed by a conoid, polar rings, rhoptries, and micronemes, in addition to dense granules and the endoplasmic reticulum. No crystalloid body was observed but various lipid and amylopectin granules were usually present in the cytoplasm of zoites. We observed a tendency of the endoplasmic reticulum of the host cell to be located near the parasitophorous vacuole membrane. Merozoites were formed by endodyogeny and during replication, the apical complex of the mother cell remained intact. The formation of gametes or oocysts was not observed. The ultrastructural findings of C. belli are further evidence of its proximity to Sarcocystidae family members and corroborate their reclassification as Cystoisospora spp. Microsc. Res. Tech., 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

Concepts: Cell biology, Protein, Apicomplexan cellular morphology, Coccidia, Cytoplasm, Endoplasmic reticulum, Cell, Apicomplexa


Surveillance for pathogens of Atlantic herring, including viral hemorrhagic septicemia virus (VHSV), Ichthyophonus hoferi, and hepatic and intestinal coccidians, was conducted from 2012 to 2016 in the NW Atlantic Ocean, New Jersey, USA. Neither VHSV nor I. hoferi was detected in any sample. Goussia clupearum was found in the livers of 40 to 78% of adult herring in varying parasite loads; however, associated pathological changes were negligible. Phylogenetic analysis based on small subunit 18S rRNA gene sequences placed G. clupearum most closely with other extraintestinal liver coccidia from the genus Calyptospora, though the G. clupearum isolates had a unique nucleotide insertion between 604 and 729 bp that did not occur in any other coccidian species. G. clupearum oocysts from Atlantic and Pacific herring were morphologically similar, though differences occurred in oocyst dimensions. Comparison of G. clupearum genetic sequences from Atlantic and Pacific herring revealed 4 nucleotide substitutions and 2 gaps in a 1749 bp region, indicating some divergence in the geographically separate populations. Pacific G. clupearum oocysts were not directly infective, suggesting that a heteroxenous life cycle is likely. Intestinal coccidiosis was described for the first time from juvenile and adult Atlantic herring. A novel intestinal coccidian species was detected based on morphological characteristics of exogenously sporulated oocysts. A unique feature in these oocysts was the presence of 3 long (15.1 ± 5.1 µm, mean ±SD) spiny projections on both ends of the oocyst. The novel morphology of this coccidian led us to tentatively name this parasite G. echinata n. sp.

Concepts: Genetics, Pacific Ocean, Atlantic Ocean, Ribosomal RNA, Viral hemorrhagic septicemia, Coccidia, Herring, Apicomplexa