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Scientists find potential toxoplasmosis drug target
Toxoplasmosis can be transmitted through soil, undercooked meat or from contact with cat faeces.
Study reveals enzyme that is crucial for the parasite’s survival

Researchers at the University of Glasgow have found a potential weakness in the Toxoplasma parasite that may eventually lead to a new drug target.

Writing in Plos Pathogens, scientists describe how they have found a key enzyme in the toxoplasmosis-causing parasite (thioredoxin) which is essential for its survival. The team are now working with industry partners to create new drugs that would target this enzyme and kill the parasite.

“More and more studies highlight the parasite’s sensitivity to redox imbalance – a key function of the enzyme we have studied,” said Dr Sheiner, from the University’s Wellcome Centre for Molecular Parasitology.

“Targeting the thioredoxin enzyme may make them vulnerable at stages of their life that are important for infection and dissemination. Finding enzymes in the parasite that we can target, and that don’t influence the human host, unravels this potentially deadly parasite’s Achilles’ heel.”

Toxoplasmosis is a common infection that is caused by the Toxoplasma parasite. It can be transmitted through soil, undercooked meat or from contact with cat faeces.

While most people who become infected with toxoplasmosis are not aware of it, the disease can be dangerous to unborn children and people with compromised immune systems.

Because the toxoplasmosis parasite is also used to learn about the biology of malaria-causing parasites, the team hope that their work will also lead to new drug targets for malaria.

Dr Sheiner said: “Our original interest in this research was not in drug discovery, rather we are excited to learn about how parasites work and how evolution provided them with special tools to serve their parasitic lifestyle. But, as in this case, we are obviously very happy if we stumble across promising targets for new drugs.”

Michael Chew, from Wellcome’s Infection and Immunobiology team, added: “Around a third of the UK population are thought to carry the Toxoplasma parasite. Normally a dormant parasite, it can lead to serious neurological harm when “awakened” in people with compromised immunity, like HIV patients, or those with an immature immune system, like infants and unborn children.

“This research is a great example of how basic, discovery science can lead to new drug targets for dangerous diseases.”

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Cats Protection launches Christmas animation

News Story 1
 Leading feline charity Cats Protection has launched a heartwarming Christmas animation to raise awareness of the important work it does. The animation is based on a true story of a kitten that went missing earlier this year. Freezing cold and hungry, the kitten was dumped in a box on a roadside and somehow became separated from her brother and sisters.


Thankfully there is a happy end to this tail, and Libby - now named Misty - was eventually reunited with her littermates. Misty’s owner, Amy Smith, said: “Misty has settled amazingly well into our home, she has found a best friend in my daughter Lily and likes to follow her around the house. She also loves to chase bugs in the garden. We feel very lucky to have her.” 

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WSAVA launches certificate programme focusing on companion animals in One Health

The first certificate programme focusing specifically on the role of companion animals in One Health has been launched by the One Health Committee (OHC) of the World Small Animal Veterinary Association (WSAVA).

The online programme, which is free of charge for WSAVA members, has been developed in recognition of the growing impact of companion animals in human society. Pet ownership is becoming more popular globally, and this has increased the implications for One Health, regarding the human-companion animal bond. The WSAVA OHC hopes that this course will bridge the knowledge gap between veterinary surgeons and human physicians. New modules are being added weekly, with a total of 20 modules expected to be available by early 2020.