Researchers from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) School of Public Health, in collaboration with the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, have identified a molecule expressed by Trypanosoma cruzi (T. cruzi) that may facilitate the parasite’s evasion of the host’s immune system. The paper was published online recently in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine & Hygiene.

T. cruzi life cycle/CDC
T. cruzi life cycle/CDC

“In this paper, we describe a protein, Tc24, that T. cruzi likely uses to hide from the immune system, allowing it to persist for decades undetected until it is too late. Thirty percent of infected individuals develop chronic Chagas disease that can result in cardiomyopathy that is untreatable,” said Eric L. Brown, Ph.D., senior author and associate professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Human Genetics and Environmental Sciences at UTHealth School of Public Health.

Tc24 is a B-cell superantigen that is a member of a family of proteins that can delete populations of B cells capable of secreting antibodies with the ability to neutralize the parasite.

In previous research, Brown found that by slightly chemically modifying superantigens, they are capable of stimulating the immune system rather than suppressing it.

“If we could modify the molecule, we could mount an immune response that would prevent that organism from disseminating and causing infection. This could help both people and canines who are infected with Chagas disease or are at-risk for infection,” said Brown, who is also a faculty member in the Center for Infectious Diseases at the School of Public Health.

Read the entire UTHealth news release HERE