Exposure to this food-borne pathogen can cause a rare brain cancer

Individuals with higher exposure to this pathogen are more likely to go on to develop glioma.


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Toxoplasma gondii is one of the common food-borne pathogens that shows affinity to neural tissue and may lead to cysts’ formation in the brain.

Past studies have shown an association between glioma and increased prevalence of T gondii infection, but prospective studies are lacking. A new study examined the link between prediagnostic T gondii antibodies and glioma risk in two prospective cohorts using a nested case‐control study design.

The study suggests that people who have glioma are more likely to have antibodies to T. gondii, which means they have had a previous infection) than a similar group that was cancer-free.

For the study, scientists examined the association between T. gondii antibodies measured several years before the cancer was diagnosed and the risk of developing a glioma. Study participants were from the American Cancer Society’s Cancer Prevention Study-II (CPS-II) Nutrition Cohort and the Norwegian Cancer Registry’s Janus Serum Bank (Janus).

Scientists found that reducing exposure to this common food-borne pathogen could provide a modifiable risk factor for highly aggressive brain tumors in adults.

Scientists noted, “an association between T. gondii antibodies and glioma was similar in two demographically different groups of people: the CPS-II cases were approximately 70 years old at the time of blood draw, while those in the Janus cohort were approximately 40 years old.”

James Hodge, JD, MPH, said, “This does not mean that T. gondii causes glioma in all situations. Some people with glioma have no T. gondii antibodies, and vice versa.”

Anna Coghill, Ph.D., said, “The findings do suggest that individuals with higher exposure to the T. gondii parasite are more likely to go on to develop glioma. However, it should be noted that the absolute risk of being diagnosed with a glioma remains low, and these findings need to be replicated in a larger and more diverse group of individuals.”

Scientists noted“if future studies do replicate these findings, ongoing efforts to reduce exposure to this common pathogen would offer the first tangible opportunity for prevention of this highly aggressive brain tumor.”

Journal Reference:
  1. James M. Hodge et al. Toxoplasma gondii infection and the risk of adult glioma in two prospective studies. DOI: 10.1002/ijc.33443


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