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Our lab is interested in studying the host-pathogen interactions of intracellular pathogens. Specifically our work focuses on Toxoplasma gondii, a protozoan parasite that causes fatal encephalitis in immunodeficient individuals, miscarriage in pregnant women, and blindness and cognitive impairment in congenitally infected children.

Toxoplasma has an indirect mode of life cycle where cats act as the definitive host. For Toxoplasma, the sexual phase of the life cycle occurs in intestinal epithelial cells and the parasite is then shed as oocysts in cats’ feces. These oocysts act as a source of infection to a wide number of rodents, farm animals and birds that serve as intermediate hosts for this parasite. Humans can acquire Toxoplasma infection primarily by three routes: Ingestion of food or water contaminated with Toxoplasma oocysts, ingestion of contaminated meat obtained from an infected intermediate host, or by transplacental transmission during pregnancy.

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Toxo Lytic Cycle.png

Toxoplasma is an obligatory intracellular parasite and its intracellular lifestyle begins with the parasite actively invading the host-cell. In the host-cell T. gondii is surrounded a parasitophorous vacuole within which it replicates by a process known as endodyogeny where one parasite divides into two. When there are about 64-128 parasites per host cell depending on host-cell size, newly formed daughter parasites egress resulting in destruction of the host-cell.  In Toxoplasmosis, most of the pathology results due to lysis of the host cell during parasite egress process. Hence identification and characterization of unique parasite factors that are involved at any stages of the lytic cycle of Toxoplasma including invasion, replication and egress is vital in developing novel therapeutics.

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