Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Parasitology


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


SUMMARY Molecular phylogeography has revolutionised our ability to infer past biogeographic events from cross-sectional data on current parasite populations. In ecological parasitology, this approach has been used to address fundamental questions concerning host-parasite co-evolution and geographic patterns of spread, and has raised many technical issues and problems of interpretation. For applied parasitologists, the added complexity inherent in adding population genetic structure to perceived parasite distributions can sometimes seem to cloud rather than clarify approaches to control. In this paper, we use case studies firstly to illustrate the potential extent of cryptic diversity in parasite and parasitoid populations, secondly to consider how anthropogenic influences including movement of domestic animals affect the geographic distribution and host associations of parasite genotypes, and thirdly to explore the applied relevance of these processes to parasites of socio-economic importance. The contribution of phylogeographic approaches to deeper understanding of parasite biology in these cases is assessed. Thus, molecular data on the emerging parasites Angiostrongylus vasorum in dogs and wild canids, and the myiasis-causing flies Lucilia spp. in sheep and Cochliomyia hominovorax in humans, lead to clear implications for control efforts to limit global spread. Broader applications of molecular phylogeography to understanding parasite distributions in an era of rapid global change are also discussed.

Concepts: Genetics, Biology, Parasitism, Parasitoid, Phylogeography, Parasitology, Biogeography, Angiostrongylus vasorum


Transferrin (Tf) is a dumbbell-shaped iron transport protein composed of two homologous lobes (C-lobe and N-lobe) and is an essential growth factor for the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma brucei. The trypanosomal receptor for Tf uptake (TbTfR) is a heterodimeric complex that bears no structural similarity with the human Tf receptor. As a first step in identifying the region of Tf involved in binding to the TbTfR, C-lobe and N-lobe fragments were assessed for their capability to interact with the receptor. Preparations of C-lobe and N-lobe fragments were obtained by digestion of iron-loaded bovine Tf with proteinase K-agarose. The individual fragments were then purified by concanavalin A affinity chromatography. Uptake experiments with bloodstream forms of T. brucei demonstrated that both C-lobe and N-lobe fragments were ingested by the parasites. The uptake of the isolated lobes could be inhibited by an excess of Tf and vice versa. Dot blot binding assays showed that both C-lobe and N-lobe fragments were capable of binding to the TbTfR. Both isolated lobes were also able to support the growth of bloodstream forms of T. brucei when cultured in Tf-depleted medium. However, the C-lobe fragment was more efficiently taken up and more potent in supporting parasite growth. The results indicate that the interaction of Tf with the TbTfR is different from that with the human Tf receptor. This difference may be exploited for the development of agents specifically interfering with the binding of Tf to the TbTfR.

Concepts: Immune system, Protein, Iron, Trypanosoma brucei, African trypanosomiasis, Trypanosoma, Parasitology, Transferrin receptor


In recent years, the emergence of highly pathogenic Trypanosoma evansi strains in the Philippines has resulted in substantial losses in livestock production. In this study, we isolated T. evansi from infected-water buffaloes in the Philippines and analyzed their virulence using mice and cattle. A total of 10 strains of T. evansi were isolated. Evaluation of the virulence of each strain using mice depicted significant differences among the strains in the prepatent period, the level of parasitemia, and the survival time of the infected animals. In mice infected with the highly pathogenic T. evansi, signs of excessive inflammation such as marked splenomegaly and increase more than 6-fold in the number of leukocytes were observed at 8 days post-infection. To study the virulence of the parasite strains in cattle (which are the common T. evansi hosts in Philippines), cattle were infected with the T. evansi isolates that showed high and low virulence in mice. The rate of parasite growth and the length of the prepatent periods were found to be similar to those observed in mice for the respective strains. The cattle infected with the highly pathogenic strain developed anemia and a marked decrease in leukocyte counts. To determine the cause of the pathological changes, we analyzed the expression levels of inflammatory cytokines and observed up-regulation of tumor necrosis factor-α in anemic infected cattle. Our findings suggest that the epidemic of T. evansi in the Philippines is characterized by T. evansi strains with varying virulences from low to very high pathogenicity in cattle.

Concepts: Immune system, Inflammation, White blood cell, Trypanosoma, Euglenozoa, Livestock, Parasitology, Trypanosoma evansi


Parasites of medical importance can be divided into two broad categories: the single-celled protozoa and the multicellular metozoa (a.k.a., the helminthic worms).….

Concepts: Microbiology, Biotechnology, Parasitology


Apicomplexan actin is important during the parasite’s life cycle. Its polymerization kinetics are unusual, permitting only short, unstable F-actin filaments. It has not been possible to study actin in vivo and so its physiological roles have remained obscure, leading to models distinct from conventional actin behaviour. Here a modified version of the commercially available Actin-Chromobody® was tested as a novel tool for visualising F-actin dynamics in Toxoplasma gondii. Cb labels filamentous actin structures within the parasite cytosol and labels an extensive F-actin network that connects parasites within the parasitophorous vacuole and allows vesicles to be exchanged between parasites. In the absence of actin, parasites lack a residual body and inter-parasite connections and grow in an asynchronous and disorganized manner. Collectively, these data identify new roles for actin in the intracellular phase of the parasites lytic cycle and provide a robust new tool for imaging parasitic F-actin dynamics.

Concepts: Apicomplexa, Parasitism, Actin, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii, Coccidia, Parasitology


Toxoplasma gondii is the most common protozoan parasitic infection in man. Gamma interferon (IFNγ) activates haematopoietic and non-haematopoietic cells to kill the parasite and mediate host resistance. IFNγ-driven host resistance pathways and parasitic virulence factors are well described in mice, but a detailed understanding of pathways that kill Toxoplasma in human cells is lacking. Here we show, that contrary to the widely held belief that the Toxoplasma vacuole is non-fusogenic, in an immune-stimulated environment, the vacuole of type II Toxoplasma in human cells is able to fuse with the host endo-lysosomal machinery leading to parasite death by acidification. Similar to murine cells, we find that type II, but not type I Toxoplasma vacuoles are targeted by K63-linked ubiquitin in an IFNγ-dependent manner in non-haematopoetic primary-like human endothelial cells. Host defence proteins p62 and NDP52 are subsequently recruited to the type II vacuole in distinct, overlapping microdomains with a loss of IFNγ-dependent restriction in p62 knocked down cells. Autophagy proteins Atg16L1, GABARAP and LC3B are recruited to <10% of parasite vacuoles and show no parasite strain preference, which is consistent with inhibition and enhancement of autophagy showing no effect on parasite replication. We demonstrate that this differs from HeLa human epithelial cells, where type II Toxoplasma are restricted by non-canonical autophagy leading to growth stunting that is independent of lysosomal acidification. In contrast to mouse cells, human vacuoles do not break. In HUVEC, the ubiquitinated vacuoles are targeted for destruction in acidified LAMP1-positive endo-lysosomal compartments. Consequently, parasite death can be prevented by inhibiting host ubiquitination and endosomal acidification. Thus, K63-linked ubiquitin recognition leading to vacuolar endo-lysosomal fusion and acidification is an important, novel virulence-driven Toxoplasma human host defence pathway.

Concepts: Cell, Organelle, Epithelium, Endothelium, Rat, Vacuole, Coccidia, Parasitology


Toxoplasma gondii, a common brain-tropic parasite, is capable of infecting most nucleated cells, including astrocytes and neurons, in vitro. Yet, in vivo, Toxoplasma is primarily found in neurons. In vitro data showing that interferon-γ-stimulated astrocytes, but not neurons, clear intracellular parasites suggest that neurons alone are persistently infected in vivo because they lack the ability to clear intracellular parasites. Here we test this theory by using a novel Toxoplasma-mouse model capable of marking and tracking host cells that directly interact with parasites, even if the interaction is transient. Remarkably, we find that Toxoplasma shows a strong predilection for interacting with neurons throughout CNS infection. This predilection remains in the setting of IFN-γ depletion; infection with parasites resistant to the major mechanism by which murine astrocytes clear parasites; or when directly injecting parasites into the brain. These findings, in combination with prior work, strongly suggest that neurons are not incidentally infected, but rather they are Toxoplasma’s primary in vivo target.

Concepts: Immune system, Cell nucleus, Bacteria, Infection, In vivo, In vitro, Toxoplasma gondii, Parasitology


Cancer is a general name for more than 100 malignant diseases. It is postulated that all cancers start from a single abnormal cell that grows out of control. Untreated cancers can cause serious consequences and deaths. Great progress has been made in cancer research that has significantly improved our knowledge and understanding of the nature and mechanisms of the disease, but the origins of cancer are far from being well understood due to the limitations of suitable model systems and to the complexities of the disease. In view of the fact that cancers are found in various species of vertebrates and other metazoa, here, we suggest that cancer also occurs in parasitic protozoans such as Trypanosoma brucei, a blood parasite, and Toxoplasma gondii, an obligate intracellular pathogen. Without treatment, these protozoan cancers may cause severe disease and death in mammals, including humans. The simpler genomes of these single-cell organisms, in combination with their complex life cycles and fascinating life cycle differentiation processes, may help us to better understand the origins of cancers and, in particular, leukemias.

Concepts: Immune system, Cancer, Disease, Death, Senescence, Species, Coccidia, Parasitology


Apicomplexan parasites employ a unique form of movement, termed gliding motility, in order to invade the host cell. This movement depends on the parasite’s actomyosin system, which is thought to generate the force during gliding. However, recent evidence questions the exact molecular role of this system, since mutants for core components of the gliding machinery, such as parasite actin or subunits of the MyoA-motor complex (the glideosome), remain motile and invasive, albeit at significantly reduced efficiencies. While compensatory mechanisms and unusual polymerisation kinetics of parasite actin have been evoked to explain these findings, the actomyosin system could also play a role distinct from force production during parasite movement.

Concepts: Apicomplexa, Toxoplasmosis, Toxoplasma gondii, Coccidia, Parasitology