Tulane Immunology Team Targeting Parasites

May 6, 2005

Fran Simon
Phone: 504-247-1425

NEW ORLEANS - Tulane University Health Sciences Center received a grant of nearly $1.5 million over five years from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to study the genes of a parasite present in 10 - 30 percent of the world's population. The parasite, Toxoplasma gondii, causes toxoplasmosis, a serious illness for people with weakened immune systems.

In people who are immunocompromised, toxoplasmosis can produce severe infections of the brain that may lead to death. Toxoplasmosis is one of the most common opportunistic parasitic infections in AIDS patients. It also causes serious infections in organ and bone marrow transplant recipients.

Principal investigator Tyler Curiel and co-investigators Michael Brumlik and Shuang Wei recently cloned the first T. gondii gene from an important gene family.

"By identifying the genes in this family, we have identified targets for new, broad- spectrum drugs to treat parasitic infections," says Curiel, chief of the section of hematology and medical oncology at Tulane. "Our studies also suggest that this family of genes may be suitable as targets for the development of novel malaria treatments, which we are currently investigating."

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