Tuesday, May 22, 2012 - 1:58pm

The Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases is a UGA-wide, multi-disciplinary center establshed in 1998 to bring together research, education and service resources in parasitology, immunology, cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry and genetics. The Franklin College has been one its core institutional partners from the beginning, recognizing that facilitating expertise from a wide-range of disciplines is the key to fighting diseases in the developing world - often treatable diseases that ravage the lives of millions of people.

One of these is toxoplasmosis, one of the most common parasitic infections in the world:

Now, thanks in part to a five-year, $1.8-million grant from the National Institutes of Health, University of Georgia researcher Silvia Moreno has identified a potential target for new therapies against toxoplasma infection, which may help to protect people with compromised immune systems, developing fetuses and other sensitive populations from serious harm.

Toxoplasma works by invading healthy cells within the body, and once it has taken over, the cell's membranes protect the parasite from the immune system. However, as it replicates and fills the cell, some parasites must venture out to find new cells to attack. It is during this process, when toxoplasma is outside the protective walls of the host cell, that Moreno sees an opportunity to combat the parasite.

"We are interested in knowing how the parasite is able to survive long enough to find another host cell," said Moreno, professor of cellular biology in the UGA Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases and the Franklin College of Arts and Sciences.

Kudos to Dr. Moreno and her colleagues. This type of research, and the accompanying new therapies that are developed, is itself a form of service in the broadest sense. The years of work by scientists and scientists-to-be also help form new foundations for understanding social and environmental conditions in the developing world, marked by partnerships like these that become new frontiers in medicine and disease prevention.

Image of a group of children in Asembo Bay, western Kenya, courtesy of the Center for Tropical and Emerging Global Diseases.