Chagas disease is one of the most common tropical illnesses in the world. It's caused by a tiny parasite called Trypanosoma cruzi which takes up residence in the heart and stomach muscles, and is shown here (the spheres) down a high-powered electron microscope infecting cells in the heart. The parasite can cause severe health problems for many years, and at the moment there’s no effective prevention against infection. That could be about to change thanks to the development of a potential new vaccine, which triggers the immune system to recognise and destroy Trypanosoma with a double punch. First comes an injection of DNA encoding two parasite-specific protein molecules, followed three weeks later by a booster jab containing the proteins themselves. In tests in mice, the vaccine seems to be having a positive effect, helping the immune system to keep parasite numbers under control and enabling it to fight off infection.
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