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Int J Parasitol. 2009 Jan;39(1):23-39. doi: 10.1016/j.ijpara.2008.08.002. Epub 2008 Aug 22.

The immunobiology of the innate response to Toxoplasma gondii.

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Institute for the Biotechnology of Infectious Diseases, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.


Toxoplasma gondii is a unique intracellular parasite. It can infect a variety of cells in virtually all warm-blooded animals. It has a worldwide distribution and, overall, around one-third of people are seropositive for the parasite, with essentially the entire human population being at risk of infection. For most people, T. gondii causes asymptomatic infection but the parasite can cause serious disease in the immunocompromised and, if contracted for the first time during pregnancy, can cause spontaneous abortion or congenital defects, which have a substantial emotional, social and economic impact. Toxoplasma gondii provokes one of the most potent innate, pro-inflammatory responses of all infectious disease agents. It is also a supreme manipulator of the immune response so that innate immunity to T. gondii is a delicate balance between the parasite and its host involving a coordinated series of cellular interactions involving enterocytes, neutrophils, dendritic cells, macrophages and natural killer cells. Underpinning these interactions is the regulation of complex molecular reactions involving Toll-like receptors, activation of signalling pathways, cytokine production and activation of anti-microbial effector mechanisms including generation of reactive nitrogen and oxygen intermediates.

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