Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Persistent Parasites

Trypanasoma cruzi – the Chagas disease-causing parasite – is harboured in and damages nerve cells of the colon

28 September 2021

Persistent Parasites

Some problems can linger for a long time before their true impacts are felt. Such, it seems, is the case with the parasite Trypanosoma cruzi, which causes Chagas disease. Chagas disease comes in two forms – cardiac and digestive – but little is understood about how and why the digestive form takes hold. A new study has found that it develops as a result of long-term chronic infection and inflammation in the colon. Researchers used parasites engineered to glow under a microscope to track infections in mice over time. They were able to analyse rare infected cells deep in walls of the colon, and found damaged nerve cells in these infection hotspots over six months after initial infection. Compared to uninfected tissue (pictured, with nerve cell bodies in pink and the neural network in blue) those harbouring chronic infection showed clear signs of damage, pointing to a new focus for potential treatments.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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