Single-celled parasites of the phylum Apicomplexa are important pathogens responsible for various significant animal and human diseases, including toxoplasmosis, cryptosporidiosis, and theileriosis. In my group, we are interested in the molecular mechanisms as to how these apicomplexan parasites interact with their host cells and cause disease.
The main organisms utilized in the lab are the cattle pathogens Theileria annulata and Theileria parva, which both have a substantial socio-economic impact, and the zoonotic parasite Cryptosporidium parvum. Cryptosporidium parasites are the leading cause of diarrhoea in calves, one of the most important diseases in cattle. Cryptosporidium parasites are also leading diarrheal pathogens in humans, resulting in substantial child mortality globally.
One of the hallmarks of theileriosis is the proliferation and dissemination of infected host cells into various organs. Theileria is widely recognized for its transformative capacity due to its interference with multiple host signalling pathways, thereby turning cells into a cancer cell-like state. We are particularly interested in identifying the parasite virulence effectors responsible for this transformation, and to better understand their mode of action.