Infection with the protozoan Toxoplasma (T.) gondii causes chronic infection of the central nervous system and can lead to lifethreatening encephalomyelitis in immunocompromised patients. While infection with T. gondii has long time been considered asymptomatic in immunocompetent hosts, this view is challenged by recent reports describing links between seropositivity and behavioral alterations.
However, past and current researches are mainly focused on the brain during Toxoplasma encephalitis, neglecting the spinal cord as a key structure conveying brain signals into motion. Therefore, our study aimed to fill the gap and describes the spinal cord pathology in an experimental murine model of toxoplasmosis.
In the spinal cord, we found distinct histopathological changes, inflammatory foci and T. gondii cysts similar to the brain. Furthermore, the recruitment of immune cells from the periphery was detected. Moreover, resident microglia as well as recruited monocytes displayed an increased MHC classes I and II expression. Additionally, the expression of pro- and anti-inflammatory cytokines was enhanced in the brain as well as in the spinal cord. In summary, the pathology observed in the spinal cord was similar to the previously described changes in the brain during the infection.
This study provides the first detailed description of histopathological and immunological alterations due to experimental T. gondii induced myelitis in mice. Thus, our comparison raises awareness of the importance of the spinal cord in chronic T. gondii infection.
The peptide trefoil factor family 3 (TFF3) is a major constituent of the intestinal mucus, playing an important role in the repair of epithelial surfaces. To further understand the role of TFF3 in the protection of intestinal epithelium, we tested the influence of TFF3 in a murine Toxoplasma gondii-induced ileitis model. Surprisingly, TFF3KO mice showed a reduced immune response in the ileum when compared to wild-type animals. Interleukin-12 and interferon-γ expression levels as well as the number of CD4+ lymphocytes were reduced in the infected TFF3KO mice. These effects were in line with the trend of elevated parasite levels in the ileum. Moreover, TFF1 expression was upregulated in the spleen of infected mice. These initial results indicate that TFF3 is involved in the immune pathology of T. gondii infection-induced intestinal inflammation. Thus far, the mechanisms of how TFF3 influences the immune response are not fully understood. Further studies should identify if TFF3 affects mucus sensing of dendritic cells and how TFF3 is involved in regulating the immune response as an intrinsic secretory peptide of immune cells.
Little is known about the association of Toxoplasma gondii infection and neurological disorders. We performed a case-control study with 344 patients with neurological diseases and 344 neurologically healthy age- and gender-matched subjects. Sera of participants were analyzed for anti-T. gondii IgG and IgM antibodies using commercially available immunoassays. Anti-T. gondii IgG antibodies were detected in 25 (7.3%) cases and in 35 (10.2%) controls (odds ratio [OR] = 0.69; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 0.40–1.18; P = 0.17). Anti-T. gondii IgM antibodies were found in 5 (14.3%) of the 25 IgG seropositive cases and in 13 (37.1%) of the 35 IgG seropositive controls (P = 0.15). Anti-T. gondii IgG antibodies were found in 8 (3.8%) of 213 female cases and in 23 (10.8%) of 213 female controls (OR = 0.32; 95% CI: 0.14–0.73; P = 0.005); and in 17 (13.0%) of 131 male cases and in 12 (9.2%) of 131 male controls (P = 0.32). No direct association between IgG seropositivity and specific neurological disorders was detected. We found no support for a role of latent T. gondii infection in the risk for neurological disorders in this setting. With respect to specific neurological disorders, further studies using larger patient cohorts will be required.