AANS Neurosurgeon | Volume 26, Number 4, 2017

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Systems Analysis Points to Links Between Toxoplasma Infection and Common Brain Diseases

More than 2 billion people – nearly one out of every three humans on earth, including about 60 million people in the United States – have a lifelong infection with the brain-dwelling parasite Toxoplasma gondii.

32 researchers from 16 institutions describe efforts to learn how infection with this parasite may alter, and in some cases amplify, several brain disorders, including epilepsy, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, as well as some cancers.

When a woman gets infected with T. gondii during pregnancy and passes the parasite on to her unborn child, the consequences can be profound, including devastating damage to the brain, nervous system and eyes.

There is growing evidence, however, that acquiring this infection later in life may be far from harmless. So the researchers began looking for connections between this chronic but seemingly dormant infection and its potential to alter the course of common neurologic disorders.

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