Disorders

Neural Infections - 2019

Dr Mujun Sun was the recipient of Brain Foundation grant funding in 2019

Neural Infections

Neural Infections
How does Toxoplasma Gondii, a common worldwide infection, affect brain injury?
Dr Mujun Sun
Monash University, Victoria
Co-Investigators : A/Professor Chris Tonkin, A/Professor Sandy Shultz, Professor Christopher Sobey

Project Summary:

Infection with Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii) is one of the most prevalent infections in humans (i.e., ~30-50% of the global population). T. gondii is a parasite that permanently resides in the brain tissue of infected mammals. T. gondii infection has traditionally been viewed as benign, however recent studies suggest that T. gondii infection in itself may cause subtle behavioural abnormalities, and is associated with neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s diseases, Alzheimer’s disease, as well as neuropsychiatric disorders. Notably, T. gondii infection also results in inflammation in the brain.
Traumatic brain injury (TBI) and stroke are common forms of brain injury that affect millions of people worldwide each year, and both lack effective treatments to improve long-term outcomes. The difficulty in developing effective treatments for brain injuries is in large part due to their heterogeneous nature, as there are factors that can modify how the brain responds to injury. For example, T. gondii infection could result in pre-existing inflammation in the brain, and therefore when the brain is injured the outcomes could be worse. This would affect the optimal treatment strategy required for such patients, and could account for some of the past translational failures in developing interventions for these conditions.
Despite the high prevalence of T. gondii, TBI, and stroke worldwide, how the presence of T. gondii affects TBI or stroke has never been investigated. Therefore, this study will evaluate the possibility that the presence of T. gondii infection modifies TBI and stroke outcomes in rats. Findings from this novel and innovative project will significantly improve our understanding of these prevalent conditions and will provide a foundation for future studies to develop optimized treatment strategies to improve brain injury outcomes.

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