T. Cruzi, T. Brucei, and Other Parasites in Humans: Professor Igor Cestari Discusses His Research


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Sep 01 2020 39 mins   7

Prof. Igor Cestari works with two parasites for the most part: Trypanosoma brucei and Trypanosoma cruzi, which respectively cause sleeping sickness and Chagas disease.

He explains for listeners

  • What scientists know about the progression of parasitic diseases in humans,
  • How the lack of immune response to parasites is key to understanding how they survive in their host for so long, and
  • How the combination of recent technology and science innovations, like CRISPR, will help curb infection rates.

Igor Cestari is an assistant professor in the Institute of Parasitology at McGill University in Montreal. He gives listeners a solid image of parasitic life cycles and host-parasite interactions as well as why they're such successful life forms. For example, initial parasitic infection symptoms often mimic a cold or flu and then disappear. Therefore, it's hard to know that one is infected until more damaging symptoms reveal themselves.

He discusses the parasitic diseases known as sleeping sickness and Chagas disease most specifically and gives some reasons why the parasites that cause these diseases are so successful. Their ability to fool the immune system is one such reason, and while scientists understand some of these mechanisms, there's still much they don't know.

He teaches listeners about two interesting parasitic tricks, namely their ability to coat themselves in some sugars from the host cell that then hides them from the immune system. Another parasite is able to change its coating to one that the immune system lets by its defenses. Some of these techniques make it challenging to create a vaccine to stop the parasites.

However, Professor Cestari says that new genome sequencing platforms have really helped in these efforts. He believes that the future is promising because of utilizing combinations of genomics and proteomics that seem to be making headway in stopping these infections.

To learn more, see his website at McGill University: mcgill.ca/parasitology/faculty/igor-cestari.

Available on Apple Podcasts: apple.co/2Os0myK