Toxoplasma gondii are small single-celled parasites that invade cells and grow inside them.
‘Toxo’ is one of the most common parasites in developed countries, and most humans who are infected never develop symptoms. But for infants born to infected mothers, and for people with weakened immune systems, Toxo can cause the serious and occasionally fatal disease toxoplasmosis.
Researchers are using high resolution imaging to study Toxo behaviour. After invading a cell, Toxo parasites make many copies of themselves before bursting out, killing the host cell in the process, then moving on to infect new cells.
In the video, Toxo have been engineered to flash brightly as they ‘pop’ out of their host cells.
By giving us a better understanding of how Toxo reproduces, the research is aimed at identifying ways to limit the severity of disease caused by the parasite in vulnerable people.