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Friday, April 15, 2011

[AlternativeAnswers] How different strains of parasite infection affect behavior differently



5 April 2011

How different strains of parasite infection affect behavior differently

/Toxoplasma gondii/ infects approximately 25 percent of the human
population. The protozoan parasite is noted for altering the behavior of
infected hosts. Jianchun Xiao and colleagues of the Johns Hopkins School
of Medicine find clear differences in the manipulation of host gene
expression among the three clonal lineages that predominate in Europe
and North America, "despite the high level of genetic similarity among
them," says Xiao. Type I infection largely affects genes related to the
central nervous system, while type III mostly alters genes that modulate
nucleotide metabolism. Type II infection does not alter expression of a
clearly defined set of genes. The research is published in the March
2011 issue of the journal Infection and Immunity. Indeed, /T. gondii/
can play its infected rodent hosts like a piano, converting rats' and
mice's natural aversion to feline odors into an attraction, presumably
to enable the parasite's sexual cycle. /T. gondii/ can reproduce
sexually only in cats. Investigations of effects on humans have found an
increased risk of traffic accidents, and other reckless behavior, as
well as links to hallucinations.

"Toxoplasma infections, at least for mice, are so variable in their
severity and heavily dependent on which strain is doing the infecting,"
says Xiao. "Understanding the differential effects caused by these
strains could enable predicting the outcome of infection and point out
directions to be explored in future studies to eliminate transmissions
or cure disease. If Toxoplasma is linked to schizophrenia, this could
lead to new treatments of that disease as well." "It is noteworthy that
we found vasoactive intestinal peptide receptor 2 (VIPR2) was
upregulated by all three Toxoplasma strains," says Xiao. VIPR2 "is
linked to schizophrenia in some recent publications. Since the tropism
of Toxoplasma for brain has been linked with specific behavioral changes
and psychosis in humans, this finding will have some fundamental
significance for understanding the correlation between Toxoplasma and

Science Daily

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