Toxoplasma gondii-Induced Long-Term Changes in the Upper Intestinal Microflora during the Chronic Stage of Infection.
ABSTRACT: Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite with worldwide distribution. Felines are the definitive hosts supporting the complete life cycle of T. gondii. However, other warm-blooded animals such as rodents and humans can also be infected. Infection of such secondary hosts results in long-term infection characterized by the presence of tissue cysts in the brain and other organs. While it is known that T. gondii infection in rodents is associated with behavioral changes, the mechanisms behind these changes remain unclear. Alterations of the host intestinal microflora are recognized as a prominent role player in shaping host behavior and cognition. It has been shown that acute T. gondii infection of mice results in microflora changes as a result of gastrointestinal inflammation in inbred mouse models. The long-term effects of chronic T. gondii infection on microbial communities, however, are unknown. In this study, after we verified using our model in terms of measuring microflora changes during an acute episode of toxoplasmosis, we assessed the microbiome changes that occur during a long-term infection; then we further investigated these changes in a follow-up study of chronic infection. These analyses were performed by constructing and sequencing 16S rRNA amplicon DNA libraries from small intestine fecal specimens. We found that acute infection with the GT1 strain of T. gondii caused an enrichment of Bacteroidetes compared with controls in CD1 mice. Strikingly, this enrichment upheld throughout long-term chronic infection. The potential biological consequences of this alteration in rodents and humans should be subjected to further exploration.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is a protozoan parasite with a predation-mediated transmission cycle between rodents and felines. Intermediate hosts acquire Toxoplasma by eating parasite cysts which invade the small intestine, disseminate systemically and finally establish host life-long chronic infection in brain and muscles. Here we show that Toxoplasma infection can trigger a severe form of sustained cachexia: a disease of progressive lean weight loss that is a causal predictor of mortality in cancer, chronic disease and many infections. Toxoplasma cachexia is characterized by acute anorexia, systemic inflammation and loss of 20% body mass. Although mice recover from symptoms of peak sickness, they fail to regain muscle mass or visceral adipose depots. We asked whether the damage to the intestinal microenvironment observed at acute time points was sustained in chronic infection and could thereby play a role in sustaining cachexia. We found that parasites replicate in the same region of the distal jejunum/proximal ileum throughout acute infection, inducing the development of secondary lymphoid structures and severe, regional inflammation. Small intestine pathology was resolved by 5 weeks post-infection. However, changes in the commensal populations, notably an outgrowth of Clostridia spp., were sustained in chronic infection. Importantly, uninfected animals co-housed with infected mice display similar changes in commensal microflora but never display symptoms of cachexia, indicating that altered commensals are not sufficient to explain the cachexia phenotype alone. These studies indicate that Toxoplasma infection is a novel and robust model to study the immune-metabolic interactions that contribute to chronic cachexia development, pathology and potential reversal.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is a ubiquitous, intracellular protozoan parasite with a broad range of intermediate hosts, including humans and rodents. In many hosts, T. gondii establishes a latent long-term infection by converting from its rapidly dividing or lytic form to its slowly replicating and encysting form. In humans and rodents, the major organ for encystment is the central nervous system (CNS), which has led many to investigate how this persistent CNS infection might influence rodent and human behavior and, more recently, neurodegenerative diseases. Given the interest in this topic, here we seek to take a global approach to the data for and against the effects of latent T. gondii on behavior and neurodegeneration and the proposed mechanisms that might underlie behavior modifications.
Project description:Cachexia is a progressive muscle wasting disease that contributes to death in a wide range of chronic diseases. Currently, the cachexia field lacks animal models that recapitulate the long-term kinetics of clinical disease, which would provide insight into the pathophysiology of chronic cachexia and a tool to test therapeutics for disease reversal. Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is a protozoan parasite that uses conserved mechanisms to infect rodents and human hosts. Infection is lifelong and has been associated with chronic weight loss and muscle atrophy in mice. We have recently shown that T. gondii-induced muscle atrophy meets the clinical definition of cachexia. Here, the longevity of the T. gondii-induced chronic cachexia model revealed that cachectic mice develop perivascular fibrosis in major metabolic organs, including the adipose tissue, skeletal muscle, and liver by 9 weeks post-infection. Development of cachexia, as well as liver and skeletal muscle fibrosis, is dependent on intact signaling through the type I IL-1R receptor. IL-1? is sufficient to activate cultured fibroblasts and primary hepatic stellate cells (myofibroblast precursors in the liver) in vitro, and IL-1? is elevated in the sera and liver of cachectic, suggesting a mechanism by which chronic IL-1R signaling could be leading to cachexia-associated fibrosis.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is obligate coccidian zoonotic parasite. Felidae family is definitive and wide ranges of warm-blooded vertebrates are intermediate hosts for the parasite. Rodents are measured as an important source of T. gondii infection for the definitive host. Thus, this study aimed to investigate Toxoplasm infection in rodents of Ahvaz district, southwest of Iran. A total of 100 rodents (73 Rattus norvegicus, 21 Rattus rattus, and 6 Mus musculus) were collected and studied by GRA6PCR and mouse bioassay. The finding indicated that 6 out of 100 (6%) and 2 out of 100 (2%) samples were positive by PCR and mouse bioassay, respectively. The results show notable chronic infection in the rodent and potential transmission of the infection among animal and men in the region. Accordingly, this study recommended investigating of the T. gondii infection in definitive and other intermediate hosts in other points of Khuzestan province, Southwest, Iran.
Project description:Persistent inflammation has been identified as a contributor to aging-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease. Normal aging, in the absence of dementia, also results in gradual cognitive decline and is thought to arise, in part, because of a chronic pro-inflammatory state in the brain. Toxoplasma gondii is an obligate intracellular parasite that establishes a persistent, asymptomatic infection of the central nervous system (CNS) accompanied by a pro-inflammatory immune response in many of its hosts, including humans and rodents. Several studies have suggested that the inflammation generated by certain strains of T. gondii infection can be neuroprotective in the context of a secondary insult like beta-amyloid accumulation or stroke. Given these neuroprotective studies, we hypothesized that a prolonged infection with T. gondii may protect against age-associated decline in cognition. To test this hypothesis, we infected young adult mice with either of two genetically distinct, persistent T. gondii strains (Prugniaud/type II/haplogroup 2 and CEP/type III/haplogroup 3) and monitored mouse weight, survival, and learning and memory over the ensuing 20 months. At the end of the study, we evaluated CNS inflammation and parasite burden in the surviving mice. We found that parasite infection had no impact on age-associated decline in learning and memory and that by 20 months post infection, in the surviving mice, we found no evidence of parasite DNA, cysts, or inflammation in the CNS. In addition, we found that mice infected with type III parasites, which are supposed to be less virulent than the type II parasites, had a lower rate of long-term survival. Collectively, these data indicate that T. gondii may not cause a life-long CNS infection. Rather, parasites are likely slowly cleared from the CNS and infection and parasite clearance neither positively nor negatively impacts learning and memory in aging.
Project description:<i>Toxoplasma gondii</i> is a prevalent parasite of mammals and birds including up to 30% of humans world-wide. Primary infection of immunocompetent hosts leads to a robust cell-mediated immune response, which controls but does not clear the infection, thus enabling long-term parasite persistence in brain and muscle tissues. Chronic toxoplasmosis in mice is associated with resistance to heterologous pathogens and this has been related to increased numbers of inflammatory monocytes. Here we have analyzed whether chronic <i>T. gondii</i> infection impacts the subset distribution and the phenotype of peripheral human monocytes <i>in vivo</i> and their responses to parasite infection <i>in vitro</i>. CD14<sup>+</sup> monocytes from <i>T. gondii</i>-seropositive blood donors expressed significantly less Fc?RIII (CD16) than those from seronegative controls, but they did not show a shift in the distribution of classical, intermediate and non-classical monocyte subpopulations. Percentages of CD62L<sup>+</sup> and CD64<sup>+</sup> monocytes were however decreased and increased, respectively, in chronically infected individuals as compared to naïve controls. Infection of monocyte-enriched PBMCs from both seropositive and seronegative individuals with <i>T. gondii</i> led to an increase of CD14<sup>+</sup>CD16<sup>-</sup> classical monocytes and a decrease of CD14<sup>+</sup>CD16<sup>+</sup> double positive monocytes. Remarkably, after <i>in vitro</i> parasite infection, expression of the chemokine receptor CCR2 was severely impaired in monocytes from both, individuals with chronic toxoplasmosis and seronegative controls. In contrast, only monocytes from chronically infected humans but not those from controls dose-dependently up-regulated HLA-DR, DP, DQ expression following <i>in vitro</i> infection. Furthermore, monocyte-enriched PBMCs from seropositive individuals up-regulated IL-12 mRNA more vigorously after <i>in vitro</i> infection than cells from naïve controls. Collectively, our results establish that infection of humans with <i>T. gondii</i> exerts long-term effects on the phenotype and responsiveness of blood monocytes. This may have important implications for innate immune responses to <i>T. gondii</i> and unrelated pathogens.
Project description:The apicomplexan parasite Toxoplasma gondii, the causative agent of toxoplasmosis, can infect all warm-blooded animals. T. gondii can subtly alter host behaviors-either through manipulation to enhance transmission to the feline definitive host or as a side-effect, or "constraint," of infection. In humans, T. gondii infection, either alone or in association with other co-infecting neurotropic agents, has been reliably associated with both subtle behavioral changes and, in some cases, severe neuropsychiatric disorders, including schizophrenia. Research on the potential impact of T. gondii on the behavior of other long-lived naturally infected hosts is lacking. Recent studies reported a large number of wild red foxes exhibiting a range of aberrant behavioral traits, subsequently classified as Dopey Fox Syndrome (DFS). Here we assessed the potential association between T. gondii and/or other neurotropic agents with DFS. Live, captive foxes within welfare centers were serologically tested for T. gondii and, if they died naturally, PCR-tested for vulpine circovirus (FoxCV). Post-mortem pseudo-control wild foxes, obtained from pest management companies, were PCR-tested for T. gondii, FoxCV, canine distemper virus (CDV), canine adenovirus type (CAV)-1 and CAV-2. We also assessed, using non-invasive assays, whether T. gondii-infected foxes showed subtle behavioral alterations as observed among infected rodent (and other) hosts, including altered activity, risk, and stress levels. All foxes tested negative for CAV, CDV, CHV, and DogCV. DFS was found to be associated with singular T. gondii infection (captives vs. pseudo-controls, 33.3% (3/9) vs. 6.8% (5/74)) and singular FoxCV infection (66.7% (6/9) vs. 11.1% (1/9)) and with T. gondii/FoxCV co-infection (33.3% (3/9) vs. 11.1% (1/9)). Overall, a higher proportion of captive foxes had signs of neuroinflammation compared to pseudo-controls (66.7% (4/6) vs. 11.1% (1/9)). Consistent with behavioral changes seen in infected rodents, T. gondii-infected foxes displayed increased attraction toward feline odor (n=6 foxes). These preliminary results suggest that wild foxes with DFS are infected with T. gondii and likely co-infected with FoxCV and/or another co-infecting neurotropic agent. Our findings using this novel system have important implications for our understanding of both the impact of parasites on mammalian host behavior in general and, potentially, of the infectious causation of certain neuropsychiatric disorders.
Project description:The obligate intracellular parasite Toxoplasma gondii establishes a life-long chronic infection within any warm-blooded host. After ingestion of an encysted parasite, T. gondii disseminates throughout the body as a rapidly replicating form during acute infection. Over time and after stimulation of the host immune response, T. gondii differentiates into a slow growing, cyst form that is the hallmark of chronic infection. Global transcriptome analysis of both host and parasite during the establishment of chronic T. gondii infection has not yet been performed. Here, we conducted a dual RNA-seq analysis of T. gondii and its rodent host to better understand host and parasite responses during acute and chronic infection.We obtained nearly one billion paired-end RNA sequences from the forebrains of uninfected, acutely and chronically infected mice, then aligned them to the genomic reference files of both T. gondii and Mus musculus. Gene ontology (GO) analysis of the 100 most highly expressed T. gondii genes showed less than half were shared between acute and chronic infection. The majority of the highly expressed genes common in both acute and chronic infection were involved in transcription and translation, underscoring that parasites in both stages are actively synthesizing proteins. Similarly, most of the T. gondii genes highly expressed during chronic infection were involved in metabolic processes, again highlighting the activity of the cyst stage at 28 days post-infection. Comparative analyses of host genes using uninfected forebrain revealed over twice as many immune regulatory genes were more abundant during chronic infection compared to acute. This demonstrates the influence of parasite development on host gene transcription as well as the influence of the host environment on parasite gene transcription.RNA-seq is a valuable tool to simultaneously analyze host and microbe transcriptomes. Our data shows that T. gondii is metabolically active and synthesizing proteins at 28 days post-infection and that a distinct subset of host genes associated with the immune response are more abundant specifically during chronic infection. These data suggest host and pathogen interplay is still present during chronic infection and provides novel T. gondii targets for future drug and vaccine development.
Project description:Toxoplasma gondii is a coccidian parasite with the cat as its definitive host but any warm-blooded animal, including humans, may act as intermediate hosts. It has a worldwide distribution where it may cause acute and chronic toxoplasmosis. Infection can result from ingestion either of tissue cysts in infected meat of intermediate hosts or oocysts found in cat faeces via contaminated water or food. In this review, we highlight how the oocyst and sporocyst walls sustain the persistence and transmission of infective T. gondii parasites from terrestrial and aquatic environments to the host. We further discuss why targeting the oocyst wall structure and molecules may reduce the burden of foodborne and waterborne T. gondii infections.
Project description:Purpose:Rodents live in proximity to humans and domestic animals. These creatures can serve as reservoir hosts for many zoonotic parasites; therefore, they increase the risk of human infections. The aim of this study was to investigate Toxoplasma gondii and Neospora caninum in rodents caught in Meshgin-Shahr District, Iran. Patients and methods:In a cross-sectional study, brain samples were collected from 70 rodents caught in Meshgin-Shahr District during March and December 2015. The specimens were examined for exposure to T. gondii and N. caninum with molecular methods. Results:Seventy rodents were caught, including 50 Meriones persicus, 11 Mus musculus and 9 Cricetulus migratorius. Thirty rodents were female and 40 were males. Using PCR (B1 gene), T. gondii was detected in 7.1% (5/70) of the rodents while N. caninum was not detected. The prevalence of Toxoplasma infection was higher in female rodents (4.28%) compared to male rodents (2.86%), but the difference was not significant. Conclusion:The results showed a low risk of T. gondii and N. caninum among rodents. Finally, further research is needed to understand the role of these rodent species in the transmission of the above protozoan pathogens to humans and livestock in this area.