Scientists have known for many years that T. gondii can affect the brain, even influencing the behavior of its hosts. However, some have debated the exact mechanisms of how the parasite crosses the blood-brain barrier, a physical obstacle intended to keep pathogens out of the brain.
Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, along with colleagues from across the country, have identified how the parasite makes its way into the brain. Using a powerful imaging technique that allowed the scientists to track the presence and movement of parasites in living tissues, the researchers found that Toxoplasma infects the brain's endothelial cells, which line blood vessels, reproduces inside of them, and then moves on to invade the central nervous system.
The Parasites that Break the Blood-Brain Barrier