It’s commonly known as the cat parasite and has found itself in the headlines after medication prices recently skyrocketed in America. Now researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a potential new weakness in the toxoplasmosis-causing parasite, potentially paving the way for new drug development for the disease.
In new a study, published in PLOS Pathogens, scientists at the University of Glasgow’s Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology have identified a key enzyme in the Toxoplasma parasite that is crucial for its survival, and may also be a potential new drug target.
Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the Toxoplasma parasite. It is generally transmitted through undercooked meat, soil, or from contact with cat faeces. Although it is thought that up to 33% of the population in the UK carry a dormant form of the parasite, symptoms of infection in healthy adults generally go unnoticed.
However, toxoplasmosis can be dangerous to unborn children and in people with compromised immune systems, such as patients with AIDS. When the Toxoplasma ‘wakes up’ in people with compromised immune systems it can cause stroke, and in infants it can cause severe brain damage.
In 2015 one of the main drug treatments for the disease, Daraprim, hit the headlines in America after Turing Pharmaceuticals raised the price from $13.50 a tablet to $750 a tablet. Treatments for toxoplasmosis often have toxic side effects, while there are no current drugs available to clear out the dormant form of the parasite.
Now, University of Glasgow researchers have highlighted the importance of thioredoxins – enzymes uniquely essential for the Toxoplasma parasite’s survival. They are currently working with industry partners to create new drugs which would effectively target this enzyme and kill the parasite.