New insights into Chagas disease from real-time imaging of experimental Trypanosoma cruzi infections
Chagas disease is caused by the protozoan parasite Trypanosoma cruzi. This is an archetypal chronic parasitic infection: a mild acute phase transitions to a chronic asymptomatic state, which in 30-40% of people progresses to symptomatic and often fatal disease affecting the heart, digestive tract, or both. The nature of the long-term host-parasite interaction and the mechanisms underlying progression to different clinical outcomes are poorly understood. Efforts to understand this disease and to develop new treatments have been hindered by insufficiently tractable animal infection models. To solve this, our group pioneered the use of high sensitivity real-time infection imaging systems, allowing us to reveal the in vivo dynamics of T. cruzi infections in unprecedented detail. These models have enabled us to improve the understanding of disease pathogenesis and transformed the pre-clinical drug discovery landscape.