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Targeting Toxoplasmosis

New delivery of treatment reaches hidden parasites current medications can't

TUESDAY, Nov. 18, 2003 (HealthDayNews) -- A method of delivering antimicrobial drugs directly to the infectious parasites that cause diseases such as toxoplasmosis has been developed by a team of American and British researchers.

A report on their work appears in the Nov. 17-21 issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

This new antimicrobial delivery system works even when the target parasites are hidden and inactive within cysts, where they can't be touched by current medications.

The researchers say this delivery system offers the first effective, non-toxic way of transporting drugs across multiple membrane barriers and into cysts of Toxoplasma gondii, the single-celled microorganism that causes toxoplasmosis.

The disease, which is spread by cats and by eating undercooked meat, can be dangerous to people with weakened immune systems or when it's transmitted from a mother to her unborn child.

Each year, about 3,000 babies in the United States are born with toxoplasmosis, which results in severe eye damage, mental retardation and death. It's estimated that it costs more than $500 million a year to care for children born with toxoplasmosis.

"This is a major step forward in developing ways to treat one of mankind's most common chronic infections," study director Dr. Rima McLeod, a professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at the University of Chicago, says in a prepared statement.

"For the first time, we have access to this microbe in its latent stage, a part of its life cycle that was previously inaccessible," McLeod says.

The delivery system uses a short chain made up of eight connected arginines, a naturally occurring amino acid, to transport an antimicrobial drug across membranes.

More information

Here's where you can learn more about toxoplasmosis.

SOURCE: University of Chicago Medical Center, news release, Nov. 17, 2003
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