A gut feeling: Putting Trypanosoma cruzi infection dynamics at the heart of Chagas disease

The protozoan parasite Trypansoma cruzi causes Chagas disease, a neglected tropical disease endemic in Latin America and affecting at least 7 million people. Efforts to understand the pathogenesis of Chagas disease and to develop new treatments have been hampered by a lack of relevant animal models. We recently developed transgenic parasites expressing a red-shifted luciferase transgene, which enabled us to track its in vivo infection dynamics with unprecedented sensitivity and accuracy. Subsequently, these infection models have generated insights that challenge existing dogmas of tissue tropism, immune evasion and disease pathogenesis in both cardiac and digestive forms of Chagas disease.