Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Test links strains of common parasite to severe illness in US newborns

13.04.2012
NIH-supported research underscores value of screening for toxoplasmosis

Scientists have identified which strains of the Toxoplasma gondii parasite, the cause of toxoplasmosis, are most strongly associated with premature births and severe birth defects in the United States.


Pictured at left is a form of toxoplasmosis-causing parasite that can be transmitted through the placenta to a fetus. At right, a Toxoplasma parasites (green) inside a cyst. Credit: R. McLeod, University of Chicago

The researchers used a new blood test developed by scientists at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of the National Institutes of Health, to pinpoint T. gondii strains that children acquire from their acutely infected mothers while in the womb.

Pregnant women can become infected with T. gondii through contact with cat feces that contain infectious forms of the parasite or by eating undercooked meat. Women who become infected while pregnant may miscarry, give birth prematurely, or have babies with eye or brain damage.

“If undetected or untreated, congenital toxoplasmosis can have serious consequences for a child’s quality of life,” noted NIAID Director Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. “The findings from this study support the value of screening for toxoplasmosis to identify patients who could benefit from treatment.”

Currently available blood tests can determine whether a person has ever been infected with any strain of Toxoplasma parasite. The experimental test developed at NIAID improves upon the older tests because it can detect the presence of strain-specific antibodies that distinguish infecting strains from one another. The test was developed by Michael Grigg, Ph.D., of NIAID’s Laboratory of Parasitic Diseases, and his colleagues. It was applied to blood samples collected between 1981 and 2009 as part of the National Collaborative Chicago-Based Congenital Toxoplasmosis Study. The study of congenitally infected children was initiated by NIAID grantee Rima McLeod, M.D., of the University of Chicago, who is the first author of the new study, published online in Clinical Infectious Diseases.

At least 15 distinct T. gondii strain types have been found throughout the world. In France, where research has been done to establish which strains are most common, a strain called type II predominates. Type II parasites can be distinguished from all other strains, which are collectively termed not exclusively type II strains (or NE-II).

Using the new test, the researchers found evidence of either type II or NE-II infections in 183 of the mother-child pairs in the national congenital toxoplasmosis study. Statistical analysis revealed that NE-II parasites were more likely to be associated with premature birth, and infants infected with these strains were more likely to have severe manifestations of disease than infants infected by type II parasites. For example, severe eye damage was seen in 67 percent of NE-II cases (59 out of 88), while such eye damage was present in only 39 percent of type II cases (18 out of 46). The researchers noted, however, that the association is not absolute, and that mild, moderate or severe disease can result regardless of the infecting strain.

“We knew that, in mice, certain parasite strains are clearly associated with severe disease,” said Dr. Grigg. “But we didn’t know if the same association between strain type and disease severity would hold true for people. Until now, we had not systematically determined whether infected people in the United States had European-type strains or other types, and we also hadn’t determined whether strains found here would have more severe disease symptoms associated with them.”

When she helped start the congenital toxoplasmosis study in 1981, optimal drug treatment regimens were unknown, said Dr. McLeod. Now, thanks in part to controlled clinical trials run under the auspices of the study, the condition can be successfully treated and many babies who are diagnosed before or shortly after birth and who are treated suffer few or no ill effects. When the researchers looked at the clinical histories of those children in the long-term study who had been diagnosed with congenital toxoplasmosis during gestation and whose mothers had received drug treatment prior to giving birth, the association between NE-II and severe disease at birth vanished. “Our study demonstrates that outcomes are equally good following postnatal treatment for type II and NE-II parasites, although not all outcomes are favorable for all children,” she said.

In France, all pregnant women are screened for Toxoplasma infection. Prompt treatment is offered to any woman who becomes infected while pregnant, thus lessening the chance that the parasite will damage the fetus, Dr. McLeod noted. “In the United States, obstetrical screening for Toxoplasma infection is rarely practiced. This new study underscores the value of identifying all patients who will benefit from treatment and suggests that widespread screening and treatment of pregnant women who are infected could prevent infants from suffering eye and brain damage due to congenital toxoplasmosis,” she said.

Unlike in France, where type II is the most common strain detected, the new study found that NE-II parasites predominated (61 percent) in the United States over the three-decade span of the national collaborative study. NE-II parasites were more common than type II along the Gulf Coast, the Pacific coast and in Hawaii. NE-II strains were also more common among lower-income and rural populations.

This work was funded by NIH, NIAID, under grant number R01AI027530. The clinicaltrials.gov identifier for the Pyrimethamine, Sulfadiazine, and Leucovorin in Treating Patients with Congenital Toxoplasmosis study is NCT00004317.

NIAID conducts and supports research—at NIH, throughout the United States, and worldwide—to study the causes of infectious and immune-mediated diseases, and to develop better means of preventing, diagnosing and treating these illnesses. News releases, fact sheets and other NIAID-related materials are available on the NIAID Web site at http://www.niaid.nih.gov.

About the National Institutes of Health (NIH): NIH, the nation's medical research agency, includes 27 Institutes and Centers and is a component of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. NIH is the primary federal agency conducting and supporting basic, clinical, and translational medical research, and is investigating the causes, treatments, and cures for both common and rare diseases. For more information about NIH and its programs, visit www.nih.gov.

NIH...Turning Discovery Into Health

Reference: R McLeod et al. Prematurity and severity are associated with Toxoplasma gondii alleles (NCCCTS, 1981-2099). Clinical Infectious Diseases DOI: 10.1093/cid/cis258 (2012).

Anne A. Oplinger | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.niaid.nih.gov

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Organ-on-a-chip mimics heart's biomechanical properties
23.02.2017 | Vanderbilt University

nachricht Researchers identify cause of hereditary skeletal muscle disorder
22.02.2017 | Klinikum der Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Breakthrough with a chain of gold atoms

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

In the field of nanoscience, an international team of physicists with participants from Konstanz has achieved a breakthrough in understanding heat transport

Im Focus: DNA repair: a new letter in the cell alphabet

Results reveal how discoveries may be hidden in scientific “blind spots”

Cells need to repair damaged DNA in our genes to prevent the development of cancer and other diseases. Our cells therefore activate and send “repair-proteins”...

Im Focus: Dresdner scientists print tomorrow’s world

The Fraunhofer IWS Dresden and Technische Universität Dresden inaugurated their jointly operated Center for Additive Manufacturing Dresden (AMCD) with a festive ceremony on February 7, 2017. Scientists from various disciplines perform research on materials, additive manufacturing processes and innovative technologies, which build up components in a layer by layer process. This technology opens up new horizons for component design and combinations of functions. For example during fabrication, electrical conductors and sensors are already able to be additively manufactured into components. They provide information about stress conditions of a product during operation.

The 3D-printing technology, or additive manufacturing as it is often called, has long made the step out of scientific research laboratories into industrial...

Im Focus: Mimicking nature's cellular architectures via 3-D printing

Research offers new level of control over the structure of 3-D printed materials

Nature does amazing things with limited design materials. Grass, for example, can support its own weight, resist strong wind loads, and recover after being...

Im Focus: Three Magnetic States for Each Hole

Nanometer-scale magnetic perforated grids could create new possibilities for computing. Together with international colleagues, scientists from the Helmholtz Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have shown how a cobalt grid can be reliably programmed at room temperature. In addition they discovered that for every hole ("antidot") three magnetic states can be configured. The results have been published in the journal "Scientific Reports".

Physicist Dr. Rantej Bali from the HZDR, together with scientists from Singapore and Australia, designed a special grid structure in a thin layer of cobalt in...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Booth and panel discussion – The Lindau Nobel Laureate Meetings at the AAAS 2017 Annual Meeting

13.02.2017 | Event News

Complex Loading versus Hidden Reserves

10.02.2017 | Event News

International Conference on Crystal Growth in Freiburg

09.02.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Stingless bees have their nests protected by soldiers

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

New risk factors for anxiety disorders

24.02.2017 | Life Sciences

MWC 2017: 5G Capital Berlin

24.02.2017 | Trade Fair News

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>